The Scarecrow

Each Wednesday, I review my week in reading and look ahead to future reading with a review(s) of (a) book(s) and/or other posts in a feature I call Midweek Review. This week’s book review is:

Author: Michael Connelly
Publication Year: 2009
Pages: 419
Genre: Crime Thriller
Count for Year: 38

How I discovered

Just look through my books read this year, and one can see that I’ve already read nine Connelly books this year. Since I was on a tear with Connelly’s Harry Bosch series, of which most of his books are a part, I figured why not read others outside the series as well. I actually didn’t have this one on my radar until a non-book blogger friend of mine, Kathleen, from Magick Sandwich, mentioned it. I was wondering how it slipped under my radar so I immediately went to the library, where I placed it on hold.

The setup

Jack McEvoy is at the end of the line as a crime reporter. Forced to take a buy-out from the Los Angeles Times as the newspaper grapples with dwindling revenues, he’s got only a few days left on the job. His last assignment?
Training his replacement, a low-cost reporter just out of journalism school. But Jack has other plans for his exit. He is going to go out with a bang — a final story that will win the newspaper journalism’s highest honor — a Pulitzer prize.

Jack focuses on Alonzo Winslow, a 16-year-old drug dealer from the projects who has confessed to police that he brutally raped and strangled one of his crack clients. Jack convinces Alonzo’s mother to cooperate with his investigation into the possibility of her son’s innocence. But she has fallen for the oldest reporter’s trick in the book. Jack’s real intention is to use his access to report and write a story that explains how societal dysfunction and neglect created a 16-year-old killer.

But as Jack delves into the story he soon realizes that Alonzo’s so-called confession is bogus, and Jack is soon off and running on the biggest story he’s had since The Poet crossed his path years before. He reunites with FBI Agent Rachel Walling to go after a killer who has worked completely below police and FBI radar—and with perfect knowledge of any move against him.

What Jack doesn’t know is that his investigation has inadvertently set off a digital tripwire. The killer knows Jack is coming—and he’s ready.

— from Connelly’s website

I must preface any remarks made to let you know that I stupidly skimmed the last page of the book before I finished the book when I was looking to correct the number of pages for Goodreads, which seems to be a common problem with Connelly novels on Goodreads. The hardcover edition I had did have 419 pages, not 384 or 385, as previously noted. All this to say, seeing the end didn’t ruin the book for me. I still didn’t know specifically how the killer was caught even though I know who the killer was.

The killer actually is identified from the first part, although we don’t know where he is initially and then we learn where he is, the cat-and-mouse game begins. This is a departure from Connelly in that he tells the story of the killer simultaneously with that of the protagonist, in this case, Jack McEvoy whom we’ve met in The Poet and who has shown up in Bosch novels as well on the periphery. Connelly also throws in another previous character, FBI Agent Rachel Walling, who also has shown up in Bosch novels, even having an affair with Bosch at one point, and brings her in at a most unexpected point.

On a side note, like another book I read this year, Look Again by Lisa Scottoline, the subject of dying newspapers arises in a subplot. However, unlike in that one, where I didn’t think overall Scottoline succeeded in her portrayal of dying papers, here Connelly, a former LA Times reporter himself, pulls it off nicely and believably. As a “newspaperman” myself, I liked that part of the story…

…and why I’m giving this novel a 4 out of 5, even though I think for most people it would be a 3 out of 5. For me, though, because of my personal connection with newspapers, I’m giving it a slightly higher rating.

My rating system:

5- Classic, must read
4- Worth
owning a copy
3- Worth picking up at library
2- Worth skimming at the bookstore
1- Worth being a doorstop

If you also have reviewed this book and would like a link to be included here, please leave it in the comments or e-mail me at unfinishedperson (at) gmail (dot) com.

Author’s note: I apologize for the shortness of this post, but for the last three days straight, I’ve been battling a terrible allergy headache that doesn’t want to go away. Plus while Connelly’s books are good, after a while, they do run together and don’t deserve a long, drawn-out review for each of them. That’s why this is one of the few I’ve actually reviewed. All of them are good page-turners, but most, with maybe one or two exceptions, are not classic by any means.

One response to “The Scarecrow

  1. I think I’ve said before that I have yet to read Michael Connelly I believe. Several of his books are on my TBR list, though. By the way, I love your breakdown of your ratings scale.