Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly

This is what a serial killer thriller should be: taut, scary, fast-moving, making good use of the usual tropes (for the killer: childhood trauma, cool/goofy nickname, grotesque fetish, high intelligence; for the hero: personal life in a shambles, likeability issues, high intelligence) while building and maintaining a high degree of originality.

Jack McEvoy is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times. Or he was, until he found himself the recipient of a pink slip--now called an RIF, for reduction in force, form. Jack McEvoy is the reporter who broke the story on the Poet, a serial killer working the west over a decade ago. He wrote a best-selling true crime book about the case, and coasted in on that fame to land a job at the Times. And now, after a decade on the crime beat, he's history. He's got two weeks left on the payroll--more than most RIF victims get--to train his replacement, and Jack intends to use that time to write the story of a lifetime, one so great he'll be awarded a Pulitzer Prize and the paper will have to come crawling after him to offer his job back. Or that's the idea, anyway.

He thinks he's found just the right story: a 16 year old Aftrican American gangbanger has been falsely accused of the gruesome murder of a young, white stripper. What McEvoy actually finds--after helping get the foul-mouthed young hoodlum released from jail--is a case much deeper than anyone realizes.

McEvoy teams up with his partner (and love interest) from The Poet, FBI Agent Rachel Walling. Together they uncover the work of the serial killer who will come to be known as the Scarecrow. Wesley Carver is a brilliant MIT graduate who--after stripping McEvoy of his savings, his credit cards, and his email access--will manage to stay at least one step ahead of them until the very end.

The book alternates chapters narrated by McEvoy with chapters told from the Scarecrow's perspective, which makes the suspense that much more deliciously unbearable when they cross paths with one another. Michael Connelly is always good, and even the occasional novel of his which feels as if it were phoned in to some degree is a cut above the rest. But when he shines, as he does in The Scarecrow, watch out.

Disclosure: In accordance with new FTC guidelines for bloggers I must let you know that I received a free review copy of this title.  My reviews are just that: reviews.  They are not endorsements, nor am I ever compensated for posting my opinion.  I am, however, an Amazon affiliate, which means that if you make a purchase from Amazon after clicking through a link on my site--even if you don't buy a title to which I've linked!--I will receive a small commission.

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