"The Poet," (1996) a thriller/police procedural, was California mystery author Michael Connelly's first standalone. He published it after his earliest four Harry Bosch novels, "The Black Echo," "The Black Ice," "The Concrete Blonde," and "The Last Coyote." It's a superior introduction to his work -- it was the first book of his that I read --- and, indeed a very good way to become acquainted with it, if you still have that pleasure before you. The protagonist is Jack Mc Evoy, a crime reporter (as its author was, in Florida and Los Angeles, for a sufficient number of years before venturing into fiction) at the "Rocky Mountain News," headquartered in Denver, Colorado. Jack's twin brother Sean, an outstanding Denver police detective, has just apparently committed suicide. But, as they say, the devil is in the details, and they just don't quite jibe. So Jack is off, investigating the case - he makes quite a detective himself. And soon, he has aligned himself with the Federal Bureau of Investigation; in the hunt for the killer they've dubbed the Poet. It's an exciting, intricate chase, offering up several credible possible solutions; extremely powerful in the telling, and moves along at a riveting speed: Connelly is evidently a born storyteller. Connelly being Connelly, and thrifty with his characters, it brings us, from the Bosch series, Keisha Russell as crime reporter at the "Los Angeles Times." It also introduces FBI agent Rachel Walling (there's a copyediting oversight somewhere in the middle of the book, calling the agent "Waller --"it caused me to muse a bit). And agent Walling will, of course, find her way into the Harry Bosch series. The author's experience as a crime reporter has stood him in good stead: he's knowledgeable about the journalism profession, and the life of the cop shop. At one point, he has his protagonist Mc Evoy say, "My skill in life was putting words together in a coherent and interesting narrative...." Only read his opening paragraph, and you will be bound to agree: " Death is my beat. I make my living from it. I forge my professional reputation on it. I treat it with the passion and precision of an undertaker - somber and sympathetic about it when I'm with the bereaved, a skilled craftsman with it when I'm alone." Connelly's readers/fans are lucky indeed: he began writing fiction as quite a young man; he's given us quite a few top- drawer novels; and he's still rather a young man. With any luck, there will be more.
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