Books: ‘The Scarcrow’ is great Connelly
“The Scarecrow,” by Michael Connelly. Little, Brown, 419 pp, $27.99.
By Bruce DeSilva
Two creepy serial killers stalk the landscape in this new thriller by Michael Connelly. There’s a psychopathic geek who sniffs out his leggy victims on the Internet. And there’s the Internet itself, making a mockery of the right to privacy and gradually strangling the life out of the nation’s newspapers.
Jack McEvoy, hero of the tale, is a police reporter for The Los Angeles Times, the same job Connelly held before quitting to write novels full time.
Jack can’t do much to save newspapers; in fact, he’s just been given two weeks notice, part of the withering paper’s latest “force reduction.” But if he can track down the psychopath, maybe he can leave in a blaze of glory.
We’ve met Jack before, when he was a Denver reporter on the trail of a different serial killer in “The Poet” (1996). Back then, he was working for The Rocky Mountain News, a paper that, in both the novel and in fact, went under earlier this year.
Joining Jack in Los Angeles is another familiar face, FBI agent Rachel Walling, who played a key role in “The Poet” and returned as the love interest in “The Narrows” (2004), part of Connelly’s fine series about L.A. police detective Harry Bosch.
Together, Jack and Rachel are a formidable team; but the psychopath, a computer expert named Wesley Carver, is a worthy adversary. Hacking into the newspaper’s computer system, he watches Jack’s every move. And when Jack gets too close, Carver isolates and hobbles him by canceling his credit cards, emptying his bank account and shutting off his cell phone service.
It’s not lost on Jack that the killer is using the same tools that are destroying the business he loves. It’s not lost on the reader that if newspapers disappear, so may investigative reporters like Jack. Not surprisingly, Connelly does a fine job of capturing the cynical atmosphere of the newsroom during these dark days.
“The Scarecrow” is a dire warning about the dangers of electronic snooping and a reminder of what we will lose if newspapers continue to fail. And it is a page-turning thriller ó cleverly plotted, fast-paced and crisply written.
As Connelly puts it, he set out to write “a thriller first and a torch song for the newspaper business second.”
The book works superbly on both levels, surpassing “The Poet” as his finest.