Posted by: Gregg | July 2, 2009

Book recommendation: Michael Connelly – The Scarecrow

I’ll go ahead and state right right off the bat that I’m a huge fan. I own more books by Connelly – thirteen, with eight of them in hardcover – than by any other single author. His novels are the wonderful and rare matchup of being well-written along with having widespread popularity. When I’m doing Reader’s Advisory with a patron and they mention they would like to read a good mystery or thriller, his books are always one of the first ones I reach for.

Connelly began his career as a journalist, and it comes through in his style of writing – he writes procedurals with a heavy dose of old-school Los Angeles noir. He’s mostly known for his novels featuring detective Harry Bosch, but will occasionally do a stand-alone or branch off with other characters, such as lawyer Mickey Haller, which I particularly like. The Scarecrow features one of Connelly’s regulars, reporter Jack McEvoy. McEvoy’s just been given fourteen days’ notice at his job at the L.A. Times in the latest round of layoffs and wants to write that One Last Great Story before his career is done. What seems to be a routine gangland killing quickly is revealed to be the work of a serial killer, and McEvoy pulls in another Connelly regular, FBI profiler Rachel Walling, to track him (or them) down.

It’s all excellent stuff, reads like gangbusters, and perfect for a beach or poolside read. However, The Scarecrow didn’t push all my buttons that way Connelly’s stuff usually does. The problem for me was the main character – Jack McEvoy is the least interesting of Connelly’s heroes, probably because he’s what Connelly himself once was – a journalist. McEvoy is, to be quite honest, a bit dull. Working at the tail end of a mid-level career, with an ex-wife and a half-finished novel gathering dust in the drawer – none of the noir pathos sings to me like it should, or like it does in his other novels.

Also, Connelly has a point to make here, contrasting McEvoy’s old-school shoe-leather journalism versus the serial killer, who stalks his victims over the net and is a hacker extraordinaire. It’s a bit obvious and Connelly, the old-school journo himself, can’t resist making it.

If it sounds like I’m trashing the novel, I’m not. For one of my favorite novelists to come out with a B minus book when most of his stuff is at the top of the class – well, I might be a bit disappointed, but I’m still a fan and absolutely locked in on his next novel.

(Which is a Harry Bosch one, by the way. Just sayin’.)

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