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Wednesday, May 26, 2004

More ConnellyWatch(TM) 

I'm surprised the Washington Post took so long to review THE NARROWS, but maybe it took that much time to line up the reviewer in question, I don't know. Anyway, John Katzenbach (who has a new book out later this year, I believe) gets the job and seems to like it as much as practically everyone else does, although he makes a very good point:
"The Narrows" is very much a sequel, and in that respect it has a little trouble standing on its own. Connelly frequently refers to the events of the preceding book, and just as often relies on the reader's knowledge of "Blood Work" and the Eastwood film. It is perhaps unfair to judge a sequel by the same standards applied to a conventional novel. In all likelihood, readers familiar with these prior works would be frustrated by much explication, either of plot or of character, that they might consider repetitive. Consequently, there isn't much background -- "The Narrows" simply sails right off into its story. This makes it a tricky read for those coming to Connelly for the first time. They will discover that he has an attractive rapid-fire writing style and that he skillfully deliversthekey pieces of evidence that tie the strands of the story together. But his reliance on information from previous books means that appreciating this one is something of a challenge.

The thing is, how many people are really going to pick this book up as their first Michael Connelly? A few, I suppose, but if I were still working in a bookshop and a customer told me they'd never read Michael Connelly but had heard so much great stuff about him, I'd give the customer one of a) THE POET b) BLOOD WORK c) THE CONCRETE BLONDE (because that to me was a stronger book than THE BLACK ECHO, and was, incidentally, the first book of Connelly's I read.) I suppose one could read THE NARROWS and figure things out, but what fun is that? Especially with all the little inside jokes and meta-references, it helps to have read prior books.

Does it mean THE NARROWS isn't as strong a book because it doesn't "stand alone"? Hard to say, except perhaps the concept is somewhat overrated. It's bloody hard work to continue a series, let alone ensure that each work can be viewed as a separate entity. And sometimes, it might just be a better idea to work on resolving threads, creating new ones, and write the book that's supposed to be written, and not worry so much about whether a potential new fan is going to be annoyed because the book doesn't explain previous events very well.

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