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Picks and Pans Review: The Narrows

updated 05/24/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/24/2004 01:00AM

By Michael Connelly
MYSTERY

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Good for a weekend's worth of the heebie-jeebies, Connelly's latest shamus-versus-serial-killer thriller mixes the cool noir vibe of Raymond Chandler with the freaky head games of Thomas Harris. Retired L.A. cop and part-time PI Hieronymus "Harry" Bosch, the author's recurring hero of choice, is a modern-day Philip Marlowe, a surly loner who reluctantly agrees to investigate the shady death of old pal Terry McCaleb (the heart-transplanted sleuth from Connelly's 1998 whodunit Blood Work). Former FBI agent and full-time psycho Bob "the Poet" Backus, Connelly's recurring nut job of choice, is a younger, smarter Hannibal Lecter who enjoys offing adulterous men as much as toying with those knuckleheaded authorities. Linking the good guy and the bad guy is federal agent Rachel Walling (think Silence of the Lambs' Clarice Starling), who thought she had killed the Poet a few books ago and is now helping Bosch chase the creep across the Nevada desert. Or—cue spooky music—is the Poet chasing them?

For newbies unfamiliar with Connelly's tough-guy storytelling and CSI-type forensics, this quick read is a great place to start. For diehards, however, The Narrows will read like a slick greatest-hits package, as the author blends characters from his previous novels and provides few new wrinkles. Connelly is too much of a pro to make it seem like a cheap sequel, though, and the crooked-haloed Bosch remains one of the most complex crime fighters around. In the book's creepiest scene—and there are lots of them—our hero snuggles up with his sleeping 5-year-old daughter and reads from the Poet's corpse-heavy case files. And you thought your parents were weird.

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