One thing that I took away after reading Michael Connelly‘s The Poet was how well he can make the plot twist and turn and then twist an turn some more.

In The Poet Jack McEnvoy, a reporter for The Rocky Mountain News, is struggling to understand why his brother, a decorated police detective, and husband and loving father, would take his own life. The only way he knows how to deal with the pain is to write about.

As he plunges into the last moments of his brothers life, and the reasons that drove him to such dramatic ending, Jack discovers that his suicide wasn’t a suicide at all, but a murder. The investigating detectives on the case of Sean McEnvoy‘s suicide assumed that he became depressed as a result of not being able to solve the brutal murder of a small child in Denver. When the frustration became to much, he drove up to Rocky Mountain National Park, drove past a ranger station, parked his car and took his own life. At least that is what everyone thought. After all, the forest ranger manning the ranger station said that when Sean‘s car drove into the deserted parking lot, he was alone, but lack of gun powder residue on his gloves and later testinomy by the ranger that Sean was wearing only one glove when he found him, but both later on when the police arrived, lead to the unlikely explanation that the police detective was murdered.

When Jack diggs deeper, he learns that this is a pattern that has been played out several times before, leading him to conclude that a serial killer has been at work, completely undetected and operating for several years.

Soon, after the FBI gets involved and Jack finds himself on the inside of the investigation, a suspect emerges. A man trained in the art of hypnosis – so he is able to easily subdue his victims – and jailed for child molestation, has been on the lose. His M.O.? Kill the first victim as bait to get a police detective involved in the case, and then kill him or her as a way for the killer to replay a senario from his childhood where he was molestated and finally able to kill his assalent, a police detective. By committing these crimes, the man now known as The Poet can relive the euphoric feeling of freeing himself from his abuser and delivering the ultimate form of punishment, death.

Soon, however, it becomes clear to Jack, after The Poet is killed by his own hand, that while The Poet was certainly responsible for the killings of the children, he may not been responsible for the killings of the police detectives, and that someone as yet unknown might have been using the first killing as a way to cover their own murders. The hunt begins anew.

In short, it doesn’t get any better then Michael Connelly. The man is a master at unpredictability, an excellent quality to have when you are writing a crime novel.

Ratings (out of 5):

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