Book Review: The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly

I’ve been a fan of Michael Connelly’s writing for quite some time now. I like that he has great characters who are fallible. My favorite, of course, is Harry Bosch. However, not being a one-trick pony, Connelly has managed to craft other characters on the periphery of Bosch’s world who are interesting enough to generate stories of their own.

Jack McEvoy is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times. Despite having exposed (and written about) the serial killer at the center of the first novel, The Poet, he’s on the list to be downsized at the paper. Journalism just isn’t what it should be in this digital age. Not being one to feel sorry for himself, even when he’s asked to train his replacement, Jack’s intention is to go out with a bang and write a story that will rival what he wrote about The Poet. Jack begins looking into a 16-year-old drug dealer in jail on murder charges. Alonzo Winslow confessed to the murders, but Jack soon realizes his confession was bogus.

When he connects this murder to one that also happened in Las Vegas, the FBI arrives on the scene in the person of Rachel Walling, who worked with Jack on The Poet. The two are off an running chasing a serial killer who seems to always be one step ahead of them.

The Scarecrow is many stories in one. It’s the story of the changes in the digital age. Jack is losing his job at the Times due to stories on the internet being more in demand than the printed copy, and the tighter budgets even online newspapers now have to work with. There’s a younger, hungrier reporter who’s willing to step in, even if she’s about to make some huge blunders. There’s also the deeper story of caution here with everything being on the internet. This was published in 2009 before every single thing was able to be done on the internet, and it’s a bit of a cautionary tale as to how much it leaves all of us vulnerable.

The serial killer thriller works well as the chapters alternate to the killer’s viewpoint without revealing who it is. This makes it even more thrilling as it reveals just how close the killer is to the protagonists and how much they are being toyed with. The pace is great and kept me on the edge of my seat.

Connelly is great at developing characters and The Scarecrow is no exception. He’s built on characters we know, both from the previous novel and other novels in the Harry Bosch universe. Even the villain is multi-dimensional, although the background and motivation which leads to these events is never explored. We know more of the falsely accused to the crime than the actual criminal. If that is the one weakness of the book, I can deal with it as there’s no reason to sympathize with the killer in any respect.

The Scarecrow kept me on the edge of my seat and I burned through it in a couple of days, which says a lot for me. The pace is great and kept me on the edge of my seat with characters I cared about and a story that was compelling.

Five stars.

Published by Patti Aliventi

Once upon a time there was this website called Epinions. I wrote thousands of reviews there. I love books, movies, and television; mostly science fiction. I'm a gun-totin', meat-eatin' liberal with libertarian leanings who will voice my opinion.

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