Review of “The Scarecrow” by Michael Connelly

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.

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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.

Rating: 3.5/5

Published by Little, Brown & Company, 2009

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4 Responses to Review of “The Scarecrow” by Michael Connelly

  1. Julie P. says:

    I love Connelly and have this one on my shelf. I just need to forget my commitments for a day or two and read this book! I’ve heard so many good things about it.

  2. bermudaonion says:

    I have 2 or 3 of Connelly’s books in my stacks and haven’t had a chance to read any of them yet! I’ve got to remedy that soon.

  3. barry says:

    This is NOT a good book. Very well hyped (just how can a just released book be number one on the NYT best seller list??), but not at all a good read. I enjoyed the description of the Times’s newsroom op, and the cyber stuff was informative, but that’s it. The plot was stale, characters were wooden, the dialogue rambling (why does the Rachel character use Jack’s name in every paragraph of her speech?), and I found myself skimming faster and faster, finally quitting with 75 pages to go. And, hey, I really like Connelly.

  4. Barry,
    I often think the NYT Bestseller list reflects airport sales! I also think when one reads this genre, one has to suspend certain judgments one might make regarding “literature.” But I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with you all that much anyway. That’s why I like when these books have interesting subsidiary plots. I think the author wanted to write a love letter to newspapers, and he needed to couch it in a plot that sells. I liked the love letter.

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