The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly

July 24, 2009

the-scarecrow-connelly Plot summary (with spoilers): L.A. Times reporter Jack McEvoy is being shown the door after spending seven years with the paper. The newspaper industry as a whole is suffering major losses thanks to the Internet, and even an institution as old and respected as the L.A. Times is feeling the pinch. There were to be 100 layoffs in order to trim the budget; McEvoy was number 99.

Instead of getting upset with the situation, McEvoy tries to put a positive spin on things. He’s got enough savings to take a year off and work on the novel that’s been collecting dust in the back of his desk drawer. After that, maybe he’ll take up an old colleague on a job offer to write for a news website.

In the meantime, he decides to ext the Times with a bang. He recently wrote a blurb about a 16-year-old gang-banger named Alonso Winslow who was arrested for the sexual assault and murder of a young white woman. The woman’s body was found stuffed into the trunk of her car, and since the suspect’s print was on her rearview mirror, it seems like an open-and-shut case.

But Winslow’s grandmother calls the Times, speaks to Jack and insists that the police have the wrong guy. Jack makes some perfunctory phone calls to clear his conscience — and then discovers that perhaps Winslow is innocent after all. Jack follows some clues as far as Nevada before deciding that he needs extra help. He calls in ex-flame and current FBI agent Rachel Walling for her take.

After hearing what Jack has to say, Rachel seems hesitant to join the case. But after doing some digging of her own, she feels that he really is on to something — and that he could be in danger as well. The rest of the novel then focuses on Rachel and Jack’s unofficial investigation into the case, as they slowly pile up evidence on the real suspect, known as “The Scarecrow”.

Liked:

  • Connelly created a very interesting serial killer here. The Scarecrow seemed incredibly freaky and scary. I just wish Connelly had spent more time profiling the guy in the book.
  • I’m thankful that there was only one interlude between Jack and Rachel. I’m not a big fan of Connelly’s love scenes because he doesn’t write them very well. But this one, with Angela’s dead body right under them, was memorable!
  • I liked the ending. Leaving Carver in a coma was a good way to set up a return — much like Connelly did with McEvoy’s other serial killer, the Poet.

Disliked:

  • I thought Connelly dropped the ball in the first scene between Jack, Rachel, and Carver when they were touring the underground facility. Since the reader knew the identity of the Scarecrow at that time, it was a prime opportunity for a tension-filled tour. Instead, Connelly made it dry as dust by focusing on the technical details of the facility, such as how much computer memory was powering each machine and how much security they had (plus he tipped his hand that the showdown would take place there as well).
  • Was it just me, or was there a surprising lack of detail given regarding the Scarecrow’s past crimes? Yes, we got information about the Alonso Winslow setup, but the other crimes were given hazy treatment at best. It would have been nice to have that extra info.

Rating:

Overall, I thought The Scarecrow was one of the better Michael Connelly books that I’ve read (and I’ve read ’em all). Even with McEvoy, who’s not one of my favorites, as protagonist, the novel was highly enjoyable, with good plotting, an excellent pace, and a satisfying ending. I give it 4 stars out of 5.

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