The Scarecrow Review
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In the 13 years since he helped to bring down the serial killer known as The Poet, Los Angeles Times journalist Jack McEvoy has witnessed his career’s slow and agonizing decline. Now, as print publications struggle to stay afloat in a sea of online news, Jack’s days as a crime journalist are numbered. And, as if being laid off weren’t bad enough, he’s also forced to train the eager young rookie who’s replacing him.

Determined to go out with a bang, Jack searches for his last big scoop—and it looks like he’s found it in Alonzo Winslow, a 16-year-old drug dealer who’s been arrested for murder. Jack plans to write a piece on the effects of poverty on crime—but as he starts digging into the case, he discovers that Winslow might not be the killer after all. In fact, the deeper he digs, the more he believes that the murder connects to another case in Las Vegas.

Meanwhile, as Jack puts the pieces together, the killer watches, waiting for a showdown.

The Scarecrow is just what you’d expect from Michael Connelly: a carefully crafted crime thriller that moves faster than a speeding bullet. It’s a suspenseful game of cat-and-mouse, played by a desperate, washed-up journalist and a smart but cocky killer. The killer’s pretty sure that he can’t lose—and he’s always a step or two ahead, anticipating his opponent’s every move. What he doesn’t realize, though, is that Jack has nothing more to lose. He’ll be out of a job in a matter of days, and all he really cares about is going out on top.

Of course, it’s no real surprise that, although The Scarecrow is a crime novel, it also focuses quite heavily on the death of print journalism. Though the story’s been done before (off the top of my head, I can think of two movies that have tackled the subject just this year), former journalist Connelly handles it well, creating tension both between print and online journalism and between a low-tech old hack and a high-tech villain. And despite the fact that I’m a bit of a high-tech villain myself, I still couldn’t help but enjoy the face-off.

Though it doesn’t star Connelly’s old standby, LAPD Detective Harry Bosch, there’s no mistaking that The Scarecrow is a Michael Connelly novel—and fans will appreciate the numerous references to the author’s earlier works. Not only is Jack a character from 1996’s The Poet, but he’s joined on the case by his old flame, FBI Agent Rachel Walling (who, incidentally, also happens to be Bosch’s old flame). There are plenty of other references to the crimes in earlier novels, too, which are sure to keep long-time fans on their toes.

At the same time, though, if you’ve never read any of Connelly’s novels, you’ll have no problem starting here. The characters are well developed, and the references are just that: passing references to other stories that have no real effect on the current case.

So, whether you’re a first-timer or a long-time fan, a high-tech ebook junkie or an old-school page-turner, you’re sure to get a thrill from Connelly’s latest. It’s smart, suspenseful, and highly entertaining.

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