The Poet is one of Connelly’s most complex and intriguing novels. Although it has the genre’s usual share of violence and the standard romantic tease, it is a multi-layered mystery with not one, but two surprise twists at the end. The characters are three-dimensional and fleshed-out with Connelly’s characteristic detailing to make them flawed and endearing, but mostly, believable.
In The Poet, we are introduced to a new Connelly hero. Denver journalist Jack McEvoy is a big fish in a little pond; he covers homicides for the Rocky Mountain News and, as he puts it, “Death is my beat.” But his life is flat, with no journalistic (or romantic) prospects in sight. His twin brother, homicide detective Sean McEvoy had been depressed over his inability to solve a particularly nasty murder and at the beginning of the novel, is discovered in his locked car by a frozen lake,with a bullet in the head and an especially poetic “note” scrawled into the frost on his windshield. Everyone–even Sean’s wife–is convinced it was suicide, until Jack decides he can’t ignore the buzz of doubt and begins to do what he does best—research. Turns out there have been a string of detective “depression suicides” across the country and over the years, all of them linked to particularly horrific unsolved murders—most of them child victims–and each with a suicide “note” taken verbatim from an Edgar Allan Poe story or poem. His brother’s murder is but the latest. With Jack’s hard-won evidence, the cases are reopened and Jack manages to force his way onto the special FBI team—including the attractive profiler Rachel Walling and her hostile ex-husband—which is pursuing “The Poet,” as this new serial killer is now dubbed.
Connelly uses the convention of giving us our child killer right from the get-go, and a particularly chilling psycho he is as he shops for child victims the way the rest of us shop for groceries. We are also introduced to the world this killer inhabits inside the internet, the chat rooms he shares along with other killers, pornographers, pedophiles, and worse. We scratch our heads at the ease with which his type manipulates the legal system, and we watch breathlessly as the FBI teases out the clues with McEvoy’s help, and finally closes in. And when it does, all assumptions get tossed out. Connelly ratchets up the tension by giving us new targets, and the plot thickens. The end is a cliffhanger, both for McEvoy and for the reader. But the exciting news is that Connelly has provided us a sequel in The Narrows. Get thee to a library, quick!