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The NarrowsReview - The Narrows
by Michael Connelly
Time Warner Audio Books, 2004
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
Mar 18th 2005 (Volume 9, Issue 11)

The Narrows is in some ways a sequel to Michael Connelly's earlier novel The Poet, since it features many of the same characters, and especially that of the former FBI agent who turned into a serial killer, known as "the Poet" because of his habit of leaving poetry with the corpses he left. Indeed, the novel seems to feature several characters from Connelly's earlier books, and each of them has the feeling of a person with a history. It is not necessary to read any of the earlier books to follow this one, and in fact it would make little difference if one had never read a book by Connelly before. The richness of the past connections of the people in this novel adds to its richness.

The book is written in more than one voice. One is an anonymous objective observer who follows the action from the perspective of one of the characters, while the other is that of detective Harry Bosch. He tells at the start of his story that he will end up in the Narrows, but he does not say what the Narrows are until much later on. Bosch was a member of the LAPD, but he is now retired and is working privately. The widow of one of his old colleagues comes to him asking to investigate the murder of her husband who died of a heart attack on his boat. Bosch takes on the job, and he becomes involved in a larger FBI investigation into a series of killings by the Poet. He starts working with FBI agent Rachel Walling, and the two of them make a good team, their working relationship lit with some sparks of romance between them.

Bosch is a complicated character, gruff and isolated, but very tender towards the young daughter he only recently discovered he had. He spends most of his time in Los Angeles, the city in which he grew up and spend most of his life, but he has also been spending time in Las Vegas, the city where his daughter and her mother lives. It is when he talks about his daughter that he shows his priorities, and when at one point in the novel his life is in danger, he thinks of her. His profound love for her provides a powerful contrast with the twisted murderous hate of the Poet for his victims and the rest of the world.

The other main character of the book is Rachel Walling. She had been the person who had shot the Poet, her former mentor Robert Backus, many years ago. For years, it was thought that she had killed him, although there had not been positive identification of his body. Then a new series of murders showed that the Poet was still alive and as lethal as ever. In the meantime, agent Walling had been punished by her FBI bosses for her lack of willingness to follow protocol. She had been reassigned to Rapid City, South Dakota, an isolated post far away from the Washington DC center. Then she gets called in to help with the new search for the Poet, and she has the chance to clear her reputation. However, she is as much as a rebel as ever, and shows an amazing willingness to disobey orders.

The interest of The Narrows lies in the characters and their relationships. While the serial killer Backus makes an appearance, we never learn much about his motivation or reasoning. The plot moves fast and while it is of course far-fetched and implausible, as with any story about a genius obsessive FBI agent turned serial killer, the strong characterization help the reader to not worry about that feature. It is an enjoyable book with some occasional moments of real tension. The rain-soaked finale is a fine set piece.

The unabridged audiobook is performed by Len Cariou, an actor able to do justice to the different tones of writing and who can speak the more philosophical thoughts of the characters with the appropriate gravitas. The audiobook has a few sound effects added, such as moody music and rain sounds, and these work to enhance the dramatization.

 

2005 Christian Perring. All rights reserved. 

 

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.


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