Thursday, April 01, 2010

"The Scarecrow"

Michael Connelly mines familiar territory in "The Scarecrow," but does it in such a way that you never feel as if you're suffering from deja vu.

Much like "The Poet," "Scarecrow" features newspaper reporter Jack McEvoy hot on the trail of a serial killer, with the assistance of FBI agent Rachel Walling. But a lot has changed in the 15 years since the earlier case - Jack is still a newspaper reporter, but one who has just been laid off in the last round of cutbacks at the Los Angeles Times. Rachel, after suffering the equivalent of Siberian exile after her exploits with Jack in "The Poet," is back in favor (sort of) and in Los Angeles after her subsequent exploits with Harry Bosch, detailed in "The Narrows," "Echo Park," and "The Overlook." Bosch is never mentioned by name in this book, but there are some subtle references to Rachel's relationship with Harry that won't go unnoticed by long-time Connelly readers.

One of the more interesting aspects of the book is the way Connelly details the decline of print newspapers, most specifically The Times, where he himself worked as a crime reporter in the days before he became a best-selling novelist. His point of view is clear - there's no question that Connelly sympathizes with the McEvoys of the world, those experienced, time-hardened reporters being forced out in favor of younger, cheaper writers without the ability to dig below the most superficial elements of a story.

That so many years have passed since "The Poet" is also made clear by the nature of the killer (and I'm not giving anything away here; the killer's identity is made apparent very early on). He's an expert in internet technology, and because of that mastery manages to always be one step ahead of his pursuers. Only with each other's help do McEvoy and Walling stand any chance, and despite the passage of years, working together again rekindles the old flame - and makes Rachel realize that Jack was always the one, and that it was never going to work out with Harry Bosch.

As with all Connelly books, there is tension throughout, and a strong, solid story. I definitely recommend "The Scarecrow" to fans of the thriller and detective genres.

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