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Firstly, an important announcement concerning THE NARROWS, the book contains crucial spoilers for those who have not yet read THE POET. If you were planning on reading THE POET, do so before picking this book up. In my opinion, failing to do so will ruin both books.
The Poet is active again. The brilliant but deranged serial killer who somehow escaped in Michael Connelly's award-winning book THE POET has left the FBI the location of his killing field. He also leaves a note inviting Rachel Walling, his FBI combatant in the earlier book, to come and catch him. Since The Poet disappeared Rachel has been posted to the Dakotas as a form of FBI punishment for her failures, but she answers the call and heads straight for the Nevada desert where ten bodies are being exhumed.
Switch to Harry Bosch who is working as a private detective. He is hired by Graciela McCaleb to investigate her husband's death. Terry McCaleb (BLOOD WORK) has finally succumbed to his dodgy heart, but Graciela is certain that he was murdered. McCaleb is an ex-FBI agent who never really let go of his crime-solving passion when he retired. Consequently, he had amassed numerous cold-case files and newspaper clippings related to open cases. Thinking that maybe the cold case files could give him a clue about why McCaleb might have been murdered, Bosch begins going through them. It doesn't take long to realise that something significant had happened in Nevada and if he was going to take the case any further then that was where he had to go.
Bosch's investigation leads him out to the exhumation site and into a confrontation with the FBI. Thanks to the information provided by Terry McCaleb's notes, finds that he knows more about the desert murders than they do. Naturally the FBI warns Bosch to stay out of their investigation and naturally Bosch agrees, fully intending to carry on regardless. His only ally turns out to be Rachel Walling, who has been given a hostile reception by the Special Agent In Charge of the operation. They decide to help each other out in their respective capacities and begin tracking down The Poet together.
Their partnership is an uneasy one. Bosch suspects that Rachel has been ordered by her superior to keep an eye on him and this is how she has decided to do it, Rachel knows that Bosch isn't telling her everything he knows about the case. And they're both pretty certain that The Poet is luring them into a trap that he will spring at a time of his choosing. It's a chase that will take them from Las Vegas all the way back to Harry's home turf in Los Angeles.
Michael Connelly has written a celebration of past books by joining together characters from his different series and stand-alones. This isn't the first time he has done this, having already brought together Harry Bosch and Terry McCaleb in A DARKNESS MORE THAN NIGHT.
This is certainly not the most compelling book in the Harry Bosch series, but to give it its dues, the detective work was clever and insightful. Where it fell down for me was in the pacing. It drifts along for an inordinate length of time before there was any real interaction between the killer and the protagonists. In place of the head-to-head confrontations between Harry Bosch and The Poet, the story was taken up with Bosch butting heads with the FBI. While this was entertaining to begin with, its continuation became irritating because it impeded the flow of the story.
THE NARROWS never really delivers on the promises it makes through the knowledge that a heartless killer is out there possibly hunting the hunters. Comparing it to a couple of the books from which the characters were taken, I thought THE POET was a more face-paced thriller that contained much edgier drama, while the previous Harry Bosch book LOST LIGHT gave us a more introspective analysis of the Bosch persona, which epitomises the Harry Bosch series, while also providing a heart-pounding thriller.
An unusual but effective feature employed by Connelly was to shift from a first person narrative to a third person description from chapter to chapter. Whenever Bosch too the scene, it was told from his perspective, but Connelly gave himself the freedom to describe events outside of Bosch's realm too.
While I enjoyed The Narrows and am a big Connelly fan, I felt that this novel wasn't as strong as some of his previous books. Present is the compelling addictiveness of Connelly's prose and his ability to tie together a credible tension-packed plot. Although it was a treat to have the interwoven characters and past storylines joined, I felt the story fell a little flat.