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Onyx reviews: The
Narrows by Michael Connelly
The Poet was arguably one of Michael Connelly's finest novels to date, a
character-driven serial killer tale focusing on an FBI agent and a
journalist—related to one of the victims—investigating the murders of several
homicide detectives. The killings were orchestrated to resemble suicides and the
murderer's identity was unknown until a series of surprising twists. At the end,
Connelly left the door ajar for the killer to return.
In The Narrows, Connelly brings together three disparate threads from his
previous books: unresolved elements from The Poet; his occasional character, FBI
profiler Terry McCaleb; and his primary protagonist, former LAPD homicide
detective Harry Bosch. The story is set several years after FBI agent Rachel
Walling shot—and possibly killed—the Poet. She's always believed, however, that
he would return, and when he did he would contact her.
McCaleb's widow asks Bosch, now a private investigator, to look into her
husband's death, suspecting it was caused by something other than the failure of
his transplanted heart. Walling, meanwhile, is in the Nevada desert, where
several victims of a serial killer are being unearthed. For the past few years,
she has been exiled to remote postings as punishment for getting personally
involved with the Poet investigation journalist. The first section of The
Narrows sets Walling and Bosch on a collision course, and the only question is:
What will happen when they inevitably meet?
Her FBI superiors keep Walling on a short leash, constantly reminding her that
she is in the doghouse. Bosch is a free agent, beholden to no one, so Walling
uses him as her ticket into the heart of the investigation. They form an uneasy
alliance—the LAPD and the FBI have never been buddies. The book shifts between
Bosch's hardboiled first-person narration and Walling's third-person viewpoint.
This is stylistically difficult to pull off, but Connelly does a decent job,
especially during the climax when the two characters are in close proximity. The
Poet is also shown occasionally to remind readers that he is orchestrating
Another risky decision Connelly makes is to have his characters aware of the
Clint Eastwood movie Blood Work, depicting it as a fictionalized version of
McCaleb's life instead of as an adaptation of a Connelly novel. The Poet, too,
is converted into a true crime book, the work of Walling's former lover. This
level of self-reference blurs the lines between fiction and reality and may make
it more difficult for readers to immerse themselves fully in the story.
Whereas The Poet was a police procedural and a whodunit, in The Narrows the
villain's identity is never in question. The novel is, therefore, more about the
investigation and the investigators—primarily Bosch, who is being courted to
rejoin the LAPD while trying to come to terms with the recent discovery that he
has a young daughter. Bosch is jaded and somber, but not beyond hope. Learning
that he has a child opens him up again, though he still has the loner instincts
that cause him to bury himself in his work. In one telling scene, he falls
asleep at his daughter's bedside, leaving an array of gruesome crime scene
photos clearly visible on the floor around him.
The cleansing waters of the literal narrows—a raging concrete-bound river filled
to capacity by rare heavy L.A. rains—wash the city clean. So, too, is Bosch
gradually being cleansed of the demons that drove him from his lifelong
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