four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
41-July-Aug-2009
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0

A-The ScarecrowMichael Connelly, a former newspaper reporter and the bestselling author of the Harry Bosch series, introduced crime reporter Jack McEvoy in The Poet (1996). Recently reviewed: The Lincoln Lawyer ( 4 of 5 Stars Selection Jan/Feb 2006); Echo Park ( 4 of 5 Stars Jan/Feb 2007); The Overlook ( 3.5 of 5 Stars Sept/Oct 2007); and The Brass Verdict ( 4 of 5 Stars Jan/Feb 2009).

The Story: In The Poet, crime reporter Jack McEvoy wrote a best-selling book about a serial killer he covered. Years later, in his latest adventure The Scarecrow, his luck has run out. About to be laid off as a crime reporter for the Los Angeles Times due to budget cuts, McEvoy, determined to report on one more high-profile case in an attempt to save his job, starts to research a story about a teenage murderer. When he discovers that the boy faked his confession, McEvoy starts to investigate a real serial killer—the Scarecrow, a computer security genius. Soon, McEvoy reunites with FBI agent Rachel Walling (who has appeared in the Harry Bosch novels), and a cat-and-mouse game ensues, set against the backdrop of the demise of print newspapers.
Little, Brown. 419 pages. $27.99. ISBN: 0316166308

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"While Connelly is not a literary writer, there are no flights of lyrical fancy here or profound, existential truths, what he provides is high-grade entertainment." Chuck Leddy

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"Connelly is an excellent mystery writer, but the usual laws of maintaining suspense do not seem to apply to him: The killer … is ID’d in the very first chapter. … The Scarecrow certainly reads like a movie—but it’s one that unfolds not just in your mind’s eye but primarily in your mind." Thom Geier

Houston Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"As with most Connelly novels, this is an energetic page-turner. His fans—of which I am one—will count this as among his best books, as was The Poet, his best-selling title. … McEvoy, who is a dead-ringer in voice for Harry Bosch, is the attraction, and he propels the story along with vigor." Dwight Silverman

St. Petersburg Times 4 of 5 Stars
"As a journalist, I’m not sure what I found more chilling in Michael Connelly’s new thriller, The Scarecrow: the serial killer of the title or the book’s vivid portrayal of a newspaper in its death throes. … Connelly masterfully whips the reader back and forth between McEvoy’s point of view and the killer’s, accelerating the pace as the full threat to McEvoy and Rachel becomes clearer." Colette Bancroft

New York Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The sci-fi phantoms that once sprung from the imagination of Michael Crichton have become realities in this tale of spying, trolling, hacking, identity theft and other spookily disembodied privacy violations. … The denouement is left incomplete so that this story can be revisited." Janet Maslin

NY Times Book Review 3.5 of 5 Stars
"That keening voice you hear in The Scarecrow belongs to a Michael Connelly you may not know—not the best-selling author riding high on his 20th novel, but the newspaper guy who started out covering the crime beat for the South FL Sun-Sentinel and went on to become a top crime reporter for The Los Angeles Times. … The damage done by this electronically savvy killer is nothing compared with the slaughter of the nation’s newspapers, which Connelly compresses into the grim fight for life going on at The Los Angeles Times." Marilyn Stasio

Critical Summary

McConnelly introduces characters from one series into other novels or series, and veteran readers will find enduring, familiar faces in The Scarecrow. A compelling and suspenseful thriller, it is also a sharp if unobtrusive commentary on the death of our nation’s newspapers, as well as a "frighteningly plausible" examination of the sinister nature of computer technology (New York Times). "Reading it will make it impossible for you to ever again think that when you do something online, no one’s watching," noted the St. Petersburg Times. The dual perspective (McEvoy’s and the killer’s) adds depth to the narrative, if some clichéd characters and missing details marred critics’ reviews. Because The Scarecrow ends with the beginning of Connelly’s next book, readers anxious about the ending don’t have long to wait.