Thursday, August 06, 2009

Reviewing: "The Scarecrow" by Michael Connelly

Last seen primarily in “The Poet,” Jack McEvoy returns in this novel which is both a mystery and a lament to the world of newspaper publishing. It’s been a lot of years since the celebrity success of his book on the poet serial killer and Jack is on the wrong side of 40. The LA Times has seen its best days and the latest round of staff cuts have included Jack. They will give him one break which at the same time is a bit of an insult. He can leave now or he can train his replacement, Angela Cook, for the next two weeks and collect another paycheck. Beyond that his options are few and he knows not much else.

“Death is my beat,” I whispered to myself. “I make my living from it. I forge my professional reputation on it.” ( P. 25)

In a final one finger salute to the management of the paper, he comes up with a plan. Contacted by a family member of Alonzo Wilson, who claims he didn’t do the murder he was arrested for, Jack decides to write about the case. With Alonzo being sixteen, living in the projects and dealing drugs, the story of how society created a killer almost writes itself. That is until Jack realizes the kid is innocent and was used by a serial killer as a scapegoat.

Society did create a serial killer. Not the teenager, at least not yet, but someone else who can use the internet and the digital world to track potential victims and those that would hunt him. Nothing and no one is safe from his online reach.

With frequent heart felt observations about the demise of newspapers, author Michal Connelly, aims a spotlight at what is happening today. Much of the early part of the book is spent on a tirade against what is happening in the newspaper industry today and unfortunately, it comes across as a whine and not a rallying call to save anything. It also serves to tell readers what they already know, if they are paying attention, and slows down the development of the story.

Against the backdrop of the slow collapse in newspaper publishing, Connelly has weaved together a good mystery using the classic clichéd pieces of the super smart computer guy who is a killer (which is told in the opening thereby killing much of the possible suspense), that nothing is safe online from a hacker or nefarious forces, and that a romance interrupted but meant to be can be rekindled. Each of the elements is a bit hackneyed and yet they all work together fairly well in the novel. After a rocky start, the reader is pulled into the fictional world and despite the author’s occasional heavy handed allusion to reality in the form of references to his own writing career; the overall read is a good one.

Simply put---It isn’t Bosch. But, it will do.

The Scarecrow
Michael Connelly
Little, Brown And Company (Hatchette Book Group)
May 2009
ISBN# 978-0-316-16630-0
419 Pages (Additional 14 page preview of the October release of the latest Bosch —NINE DRAGONS)

Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2009

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