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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.
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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