THE SCARECROW by Michael Connelly

Book Quote:

“The U.S. Supreme Court had upheld the legality of the police’s lying to a suspect if the lie would reasonably be seen as such by an innocent person…but I didn’t feel too good about it. It never seemed right or fair to me that the representatives of our government were allowed to employ lies and tricks—just like the bad guys—with the full approval of the Supreme Court.”

Book Review:

Review by Mary Whipple (OCT 13, 2009)

Author of twenty-two popular novels in the past seventeen years, Michael Connelly has won just about every award possible for mystery writing, not just in the U.S. but also throughout the world, where his novels have been translated into thirty-five languages. Winner of the Edgar, the Anthony, and almost a dozen other U.S. awards, he has also won the Maltese Falcon Award (Japan), the Grand Prix (France), the Premio Bancarella Award (Italy), and the Pepe Carvalho Award (Spain.) Drawing on his years of experience as a crime reporter in Florida and Los Angeles, where he had a close relationship with the local police and other agencies, he imbues his main characters—newspaper reporters, LAPD detectives, lawyers, and even FBI agents—with a verisimilitude which many other writers cannot hope to achieve.

Jack McEvoy and Rachel Walling, who were the main characters in Connelly’s first novel, The Poet, about a serial killer, return in this novel, in which they are chasing another serial killer. This is not just an “ordinary” serial killer, however. This killer is a genius with the computer, able to get into any personal account anywhere to deny service, plant phony evidence and/or pornography, close out bank accounts, cancel plane reservations, or spy on e-mails and interoffice communications. What’s worse–he works for an internet security agency, and he is so clever that no one is even aware that a seemingly straightforward murder investigation involves a serial killer at all.

Jack McEvoy, a respected and relatively well paid reporter for the Los Angeles Times, has just been given two weeks to finish up his stories before he is laid off from the paper. Like all newspapers these days, the Times is having financial problems, the result of lower ad revenues and more people reading the paper on-line, and by letting Jack go, the paper can bring along one of the new (and much less expensive) youngsters. Jack (like Connelly), the author of a book about a serial killer called The Poet several years ago, has decided that if he’s going to leave the paper, he’s going to write a final story so sensational that he will be long remembered. When he receives a phone call from a woman who claims that the police have jailed her juvenile son for a murder he never committed, Jack and a photographer go off to the projects to interview her. Though Alonzo Winslow may have been involved in any number of other crimes, including the sale of drugs, Jack becomes convinced that he did not, in fact, confess to the murder for which he is currently in jail—the torture and suffocation of a woman who was then stuffed into the trunk of a car, a plastic bag around her neck.

Jack is expected to train his successor, Angela Cook, and introduce her to his contacts, but Angela knows that Jack could be her ticket to success at the paper, and she is savvy and attractive enough to understand how to use her charm on the boss in an effort to “poach” on Jack’s final story, a mistake she will regret. Jack is soon up to his eyeballs in complications, chasing down leads and eventually using the internet to look up old cases. He becomes convinced that several old cases are connected to the case involving Alonzo Winslow, and that a new murder, which takes place soon after, is the work of the same deranged killer. When he discovers that someone has accessed L.A. Times company memos, his own e-mail, his telephone, and virtually all his accounts, including his bank account and credit cards, as he is preparing to travel, he realizes that “I was being [messed] with on a level I had never experienced before.”

Connelly keeps the action coming fast and furiously, and when Jack contacts FBI agent Rachel Walling, a former love with whom he solved the case of The Poet, years ago, the action ratchets up even further, providing a complicated love interest at the same time. The author’s prose style is efficient and effective as he alternates first-person accounts by Jack McEvoy at the L. A. Times with third-person narratives involving the computer expert in Arizona who seems to be pulling all the strings and playing games with his pursuers. With red herrings galore, the novel will keep Connelly fans involved for hours.

Unfortunately, though Jack McEvoy and Rachel Walling develop into characters with some individuality through their actions, Connelly reveals almost nothing about the computer genius at the heart of the mystery. An early but fleeting scene from the man’s childhood is not explained or developed until the last pages of the book, and his motivation for this series of grisly murders is never explained. While this may increase the tension and the sense of drama as Jack is pursuing the mysterious killer, it makes the ending much less satisfying than it would have been if we had been allowed entrée into the “whys” of his behavior. Ironically, Connelly himself anticipates this criticism when Jack McEvoy eventually decides to write a book about this case, announcing that his editor has told him that “The record of grim deeds [the man] committed cannot overshadow the motivations behind it…I must be able to tell more than what happened. I must tell why. It’s breadth and depth…” It is too bad that Michael Connelly did not heed the same advice during the more than four hundred pages of this novel.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 261 readers
PUBLISHER: Little, Brown and Company (October 13, 2009)
REVIEWER: Mary Whipple
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Michael Connelly
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: MostlyFiction (like many others) are great fans of Michael Connelly. As such, we have reviewed a lot of his books over the years:For these Harry Bosch reviews, go here:
City of Bones, Lost Light, The Narrows, The Closers, Echo Park, and The Overlook

For a review his latest Harry Bosch, Nine Dragons, go here.

For these Michael Haller reviews, go here:
The Lincoln Lawyer and Brass Verdict

For a review of the latest Micky Haller:
The Fifth Witness

For a review of his latest Michael Haller, The Reversal, go here.

For these stand-alone mysteries, go here:
Bloodwork and Chasing the Dime


LAPD Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch Series

Mickey Haller:


* Terry McCaleb is in these novels
** Harry Bosch is in these novels
*** The Poet is in these novels.
****Mickey Haller is in this novel


Movies from Books:

October 13, 2009 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: California, Mystery/Suspense, y Award Winning Author

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