Michael Connelly, a former reporter who once worked at the Los Angeles Times, manages to insert a paean to newspapers in general and to the L.A. Times in particular into this serial killer suspense novel.
The protagonist, Jack McEvoy, works at the L.A. Times. Unfortunately, he just got a layoff notice (the 99th of 100 reporters to have received one) as part of the paper’s last-ditch effort to save itself from bankruptcy. When his boss asks him to stay around for two weeks and train his replacement, he decides to go out in classy style with a great story about conditions in the ghetto leading to crime. He focuses on a recent murder in which a stripper was found tortured to death and left in her own car trunk. A fingerprint was found leading to a ghetto youth who was arrested for the crime, in spite of his protestations that he was innocent.
His young trainee, Angela Cook, wants to take the byline from him, and does some extra background research on trunk murders. The information she unearths indicates that the boy may have been set up to take the fall by a serial killer. Soon Jack and his old partner from the FBI, Rachel Walling, are on the trail.
The serial killer is quite techno-savvy, and Jack is not. This allows the author to interject riffs on how newspapers used to operate, versus the internet-driven products of today. Although Jack is prepared to leave gracefully, neither the protagonist nor the author can help feeling a sense of loss over what newspapers used to be.
Rating: This is a suspenseful book that will keep you, if not on the edge of your seat, very close to it. I liked the bittersweet encomium to newspapers too. It isn’t overdone, and also serves to provide those emotional resting spaces when you recover from one roller coaster dip before going up another. Good summer read.
Published by Little, Brown & Company, 2009