Mystery/Thriller Book Reviews

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The Narrows by Michael Connelly

Little, Brown, May, 2004
Hardcover, 416 pages
ISBN: 0316155306
Ordering information:

The Narrows
 by Michael Connelly Harry Bosch, a retired LAPD detective, is back on the case when he is asked to help solve the death of a friend, former FBI agent, Terry McCaleb (from the novel Blood Work). Around the same time FBI agent Rachel Walling is called in because the dreaded Poet, a serial killing mastermind, has returned and has already gone on a killing spree -- bodies have been found in the Nevada desert. Walling has dealt with the Poet before (See The Poet) and his plans for her this time are a mystery. With Harry Bosch's help, she must stop the Poet for good -- preferably before he kills again.

Connelly is at his very best when he is writing about Robert Backus, also knows as the Poet, the FBI agent turned serial killer. This latest novel is a sequel to 1996 novel The Poet and readers will be pleased with this well-written addition. Connelly immediately draws readers back into the Poet's twisted world, which is full of cunning lures and traps. The Narrows also starts detective Harry Bosch, Connelly's appealing series detective from his The Black Echo, The Black Ice and The Concrete Blonde novels. Connelly even cleverly includes his character Terry McCaleb's appearance in the film Blood Work (played by actor Clint Eastwood) in The Narrows. Although Connelly brings in previously unrelated characters from his past novels, the book works well as a stand-alone for those who missed any or all of the prior books. The Narrows is a captivating thriller from Connelly, and serves as yet another example of his powerful storytelling skills.

The Perfumed Sleeve by Laura Joh Rowland

St. Martin's Minotaur, April, 2004
Hardcover, 326 pages
ISBN: 0312318898
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The Perfumed Sleeve
 by Laura Joh Rowland Who says that the dead cannot cause immense trouble? Not Sano Ichiro, the Shogun's Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations and People. When Makino Narasade, a senior official in the Emperor's Court and longtime enemy of Sano's, is found dead Sano receives a missive from the dead man claiming that he has been murdered and demanding that Sano investigate. Furious, Sano is caught in a terrible position. Honor requires that he undertake the investigation, but the two prime suspects are members of the two powerful clans who are angling for the throne of Japan. Sano has so far managed so stay alive in the poisonous atmosphere of the court by steadfastly maintaining his neutrality in the political infighting that surrounds the weak-willed Emperor. Lord Matsudaira, cousin to the Emperor, and Chamberlain Yangisawa are duelling to put their favorites on the throne and both demand that Sano slant the investigation to favor their interests. Civil war looms as Sano undertakes the distasteful investigation that could mean his execution if he names the wrong guilty party.

Sano's wife, Reiko, recovers enough from her kidnapping ordeal (See, the Dragon King's Palace), to assist Sano in investigating the complicated life of the eighty-something Narasada. Their investigation takes them from brothels to temples to the very halls of power. With powerful images of the City of Edo, and two very likeable protagonists, Laura Joh Rowland makes ancient Japan and its customs accessible to modern readers. With a labyrinthine plot and a strong supporting cast, The Perfumed Sleeve is the best entry yet in this compelling historical mysery series.

--Claire E. White

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