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  • Writer's pictureMehnaz Sahibzada

Is Michael Connelly's The Poet Still Worth Reading in 2024 for Poets & Poe Lovers? (spoiler-free review)

I first read Connelly’s 1996 thriller the year it was published when I was living in Austin, Texas.  But this past June, now a long time Angeleno, I decided to reread it.  What first made me pick The Poet off the shelf?  It was the title.  I have been a lifelong mystery/thriller junkie, but I’ve also been writing poetry since my early teens.  The idea that a crime novel could somehow integrate poetry seemed like a two-for-one jackpot to me.  I bought the book.

The novel follows crime reporter, Jack McEvoy, as he investigates a series of police suicides across the country. What starts as a personal quest soon becomes a nationwide hunt for a serial killer involving the FBI. 

So did the book hold up as a thriller almost thirty years after it first came out?

Yes!  After all these years, I still found the story compelling–maybe more so. What struck me most this time around wasn't just the engaging plot or narrative voice (though both are awesome). It was Connelly's creative integration of poetry.

Now, I know some folks might be thinking – poetry in a crime thriller? But yes, it works. Connelly weaves in snippets of Edgar Allan Poe's writing throughout the story, and it's not just superficial. These poetic elements add character depth and help in crafting a haunting atmosphere.

The verses Connelly drops in don’t seem random. Each poem ties into the plot in logical ways, offering clues or reflecting the killer's psyche. Readers can enjoy piecing together these literary references.  But you don't need to be a poetry lover to appreciate it. Connelly strikes a good balance, using the poems to enhance the story without overdoing it. It's accessible enough for casual readers but offers something extra for those who have some knowledge of Poe’s writing and career.

The Poet stands out by blending genres in a way that feels fresh, even nearly three decades later. So if you're looking for a crime novel with a literary twist this summer, I would recommend giving this one a shot. And if you love Edgar Allen Poe, I recommend this website.  I have been inspired by Poe for decades.  Here’s a poem I wrote a few years back titled, “Muse Noir,” which includes an allusion to Poe and also an audio recording of me reading it.

Here’s a link to an excerpt from The Poet.

And drop me a comment if you check it out or have already read it!


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