Book review – for readers and writers – no.143: Morgen Bailey reviews Michael Connelly’s crime novel The Poet

Today’s book review of a crime novel is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey. If you’d like your book reviewed (please note I’m usually booked up several months in advance) and / or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.

Being a writer and editor, I read and review books with both hats. If you’re a writer reading this review and found it useful, do let me know.

The Poet by Michael Connelly

The Poet coverSynopsis: The apparent suicide of his policeman brother sets Denver crime reporter Jack McEvoy on edge. Surprise at the circumstances of his brother’s death prompts Jack to look into a whole series of police suicides, and puts him on the trail of a cop killer whose victims are selected all too carefully. Not only that, but they all leave suicide notes drawn from the poems of writer Edgar Allan Poe in their wake. More frightening still, the killer appears to know that Jack is getting nearer and nearer. An investigation that looks like the story of a lifetime might also be Jack’s ticket to a lonely end.

This novel is available via and

Review (of the audiobook)

Information is trickled to the reader throughout the novel and we switch from the first-person point of view Jack and the criminal, written via the narrator in third person. He certainly is creepy. We feel sorry for Jack from the beginning because of what happened to his brother so we’re going to want him to be OK, and stories written with deadlines is inevitably going to be pacey. The ending, after some twists, was unexpected and not unbelievable.

There is plenty to like about this novel – especially how it was narrated by Buck Schirner – but needless to say, I have found some to pick!…

  • A lot of (far too many) ‘began to’ / ‘started to’ before verbs. If something is happening then the ‘began to’ etc. can be chopped.
  • Other words that can you be dropped include completely (we have here ‘completely avoided’), totally etc.
  • There are a fair number of dialogue tags, e.g. he said / she said, where they are not needed. For example, when it has been established who the characters are and there are only two having a conversation, we don’t need to know so often who is speaking – especially where one of the characters names is mentioned by the other.
  • Unless you are just starting out, most writers know to avoid adverbs wherever possible, especially after dialogue and some examples in this novel are, “F***k the lawyer,” Sweetzer said angrily, “Give it to me!”, she said angrily, “You weasel,” Thorson said angrily. (Michael likes his angrilys, doesn’t he.) These are examples where you are telling the reader how the character is feeling rather than showing. Another example is ‘cheeks were hot with anger’ yet we know why his cheeks would be hot because of what led up to that. As long as the set up context of what you are writing is clear, you don’t need to include additional detail explaining what has happened before.
  • I have never been keen on the phrase ‘a long moment’ and there were two close together about halfway through the novel and a couple more later but I think it’s more of an Americanism than Britishism.
  • There is a lot of unnecessary repetition, especially noticed again around the halfway mark including ‘I started slowly to look about. I moved slowly through the house…’, ‘into a trailer park. Several inhabitant of the park… (where ‘several inhabitants’ would have done because we already know where they are), ‘walked through. Rachel walked…’, ‘The phone rang. Rachel yanked the phone out of the cradle.’ This could easily have been replaced by handset. Other examples include ‘…a back office. He came back…’ where the second back could have been replaced by ‘returned’, and finally, “It’s obviously sent to you… obviously been waiting for me…” What made this more annoying was that many of these instances are within the same chapter.


A very enjoyable novel, with a gripping the plot, only losing a point because of its need for a more thorough editing.

This novel was written and first published in the mid 1990s so presumably early in Michael’s career so as not as well written – or at least not as well edited – as his later novels so partly forgiveable, but the errors I have mentioned here certainly should have been picked up by a professional editor.

Rating: 4 out of 5


Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a freelance editor, online tutor, prolific blogger, 2015 Head Judge for the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition, Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition, RONE 2015 Judge, and teaches creative writing (and writing-related I.T.) for her local county council and online. She is also a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog,, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on Twitter, Facebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page) and has created five online writing groups. She also runs a free monthly 100-word writing competition where you can win her online creative writing courses!

Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has nine others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on

She also helps other authors with an inexpensive freelance editing and critiquing service (free 1,000-word sample), and welcomes, and actively helps to promote, guest authors on her blog – see opportunities.


If you would like to send me a book review, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.

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