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Great start - but a bit of a let down near the end.
on July 16, 2009
Michael Connelly is easily one of the best crime fiction authors working today and The Scarecrow is a solid read, although I have to admit that after a great start the ending is a bit of let down. It isn't that the ending is bad (it isn't) - it's just that it follows a standard formula and was just too 'ordinary'.
The first half of The Scarecrow is exceptionally good. Connelly gives readers an insider's look at the inner workings of the newspaper business and the devastating effect that the internet and 24 hour cable news is having on it. I appreciated that our hero, reporter Jack McEvoy, starts chasing a story for reasons that are not entirely noble. When the grandmother of a gang member charged with murder insists her grandson is innocent, Jack follows up, not intending to prove the boy innocent, but rather to gain access to the family so he can profile the mind of a young killer. Of course, he does find evidence that leads the story in a different direction.
The greatest strength of Connelly's fiction is how thorough he is as a writer. For example: the killer is planning to frame someone (I don't want to give too much away) and Connelly has him address any holes in his plan, like the transportation of a firearm. Lesser authors would simply ignore the problem(s) and assume that readers wouldn't notice or would be willing to overlook the inconsistancies. Connelly though has his killer find a solution so that his plan is as realistic as possible. I appeciate that. I also appreciate that McEvoy and his partner FBI agent Rachel Walling don't just stumble around - they actually investigate, detect, and solve things. The criminals are intelligent too, which makes for a refreshingly smart read.
Unfortunately, after an exceptional start, it's as if Connelly switches onto autopilot for the second half of the novel and follows the Serial Killer Novel Playbook to the letter. Connelly uses one of the standard ploys of crime fiction: notably the `hero realizes the truth when he sees, hears, or says something unrelated to the crime that triggers a sudden epiphany, allowing him to save the day at the last possible moment." The other issue that I had with the final part of the novel is the behavior of the killer when he realizes that Jack and Rachel are onto him. He's been so cool and calculating throughout the novel but then over-reacts faced with Jack's flimsy `evidence'.
Is The Scarecrow worth reading? Absolutely. True, the ending was a bit of a let down after such a great start, but at least there was a great start and it wasn't that big of a let down. 3 ¾ stars.