Michael Connelly, not an author to waste a character, brings back the crime reporter hero of a previous thrillah, The Poet (1996). As the curtain rises on The Scarecrow, we find Jack McEvoy, late of the late Rocky Mountain News, dashing around the mean streets of Los Angeles gathering stories of urban homicide for a dwindling handful of morbid LA Times readers.
I know all this because on the day of its publication I zipped out and snagged my shiny copy of The Scarecrow, the new Boschless novel from Mr. Connelly. This one, like it’s prequel, is named after the antagonist, another one of those annoying serial killers. The dander of the police, the FBI and McEvoy, upon whom are inflicted the dead bodies of many pretty young things stuffed in car trunks and other less traditional places, is gotten up. The Scarecrow details the working out of that getting up of dander.
I’m only halfway through my wide-eyed reading of Mr. McEvoy’s life and death struggle contra Mr. Scarecrow, and so I am unable to justly render a final judgment, but I can no more resist the compulsion to hurry onward to the presumably exciting conclusion than I can see a cow while I’m driving and not say “Moo.” Isn’t that judgment enough for a thrillah?
No? Well, besides the page-turning Connelly knows so well how to command, the reader (that’s me, maybe you) gets the author’s trademark location work: You Are There. The Los Angeles landscape gets such vivid description in The Scarecrow, the book could be given a new jacket design and remarketed as a city guide. I’ve always liked Connelly’s LA, but now, as a new Angeleno, I enjoy even more the scene-setting, getting a kick, for example, out having been in the very spot where the first body is dumped. Not, I hasten to add, at the time of the dumping. As a former Chicagoan I can tell you, too, that Connelly’s descriptions of the Northside in McEvoy’s previous star vehicle, The Poet, are accurate down to the brickwork of the police station at Western and Belmont. There’s that.
Then there’s Connelly’s meticulous and plausible descriptions of the minutiae of newspaper work — the same sort of careful exposition he brings to the nuts and bolts of policework in his Bosch books. If learning about budget meetings, deadline strategies and deployment of the GA group (“general assignment” reporters) doesn’t excite the same bloody-minded curiousity as does the cop stuff, at least in this age of the decline of paper papers it serves as a sort of historical preservation — like Colonial Williamsburg — for future generations to wonder at.
by Michael Connelly
(Little Brown and Company, Hardcover, 448pp.)