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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.
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on July 16, 2009
I added this up last night and discovered that I have read more books by Michael Connelly (15) than any other author I've read. So I guess one could say I'm a huge fan. The amazing thing is that they were all five star books (except for Chasing The Dime, of course). I find this almost hard to believe but it's true. And I'm actually one of the readers who started reading Connelly before his real fame came into being with the publication of The Poet.

I guess it's only fair then that his latest offering features journalist Jack McEvoy....the same Jack McEvoy who appeared in The Poet. Connelly's true fans have been awaiting a reappearance by one of their favorite characters for years now and in The Scarecrow, Jack's return does not disappoint for one minute. I loved this book from the beginning to the end.

Having started his career as a journalist, I'm sure this book is close to Connelly's heart as he watches the slow demise of the newspaper industry. The fact that technology is killing newspapers becomes only too clear as the book starts off with Jack getting a pink slip from the LA Times. But "our" Jack is intent on going out with a bang and makes it his business to come up with one last story that will be Pulitzer prizeworthy. He will set out to prove that a sixteen year old gang member is not guilty of the murder for which he is being accused. The good news to Jack's fans is that he will need to ask FBI agent Rachel Walling for her help as he starts to get too close to the answer to the mystery and much too close to The Scarecrow. Their "coupling" in this book is well worth the wait as they make such a great team.

We learn at the beginning of the book who the real villain is and I enjoy when an author does this because I then get to follow the thoughts of the "bad guy" right up front. As Jack is closing in on The Scarecrow, we get to view this villain as he becomes a bird being scared by a scarecrow as opposed to the opposite way around. I enjoyed all of the Wizard of Oz references in the book as well. At one point, music is playing in the background and it's Eric Clapton in concert singing "Somewhere Over The Rainbow." In addition, the city editor of the LA Times where Jack works is "Dorothy" Fowler and guess where's she originally from....you guessed right...Kansas. I also love when an author references one of his other books within the book I'm reading. In this case, Jack mentions reading a series of stories about a lawyer who did his business out of a Lincoln. Nice shoutout to Mickey Haller of The Lincoln Lawyer fame.

Unlike other authors who don't have Connelly's talent, he doesn't have to make his stories so convoluted that you can't even understand them. He also doesn't resort to having the villain be one of the investigators as so many other authors "cop out" and do. He writes a clear-cut story from start to finish and it's always one you can't put down. I always comment that I read very few books in a given year that would get a "10" rating from me. In the mystery/thriller category, this is one for 2009, a "Big 10". The only other two books in this genre that I've read this year and have also received a "10" rating from me were The Lincoln Lawyer and The Brass Verdict. Surprise, surprise, they were also written by Connelly. This is obviously one satisfied fan.
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on July 17, 2009
The Scarecrow
Michael Connelly can write, and in the first half of his "the Scarecrow" much of his ability comes out. The start of the story moves well, suspense builds and the character development works. Cyber stalking kicks in and I was "trapped" in the suspense of how powerful - and powerless Jack McEvoy became with the abilities of the stalker to literally shut out the reporter from society; financially, identity theft and literally a man out in the cold. Now comes the big Disappointment: 1/2 way throught the book everything grinds to a halt. Connelly could not decide whether this story was about cyber-stalking, cold blooded (and brutal) murder, or an egomaniac of a criminal. The plot drags. Is predictable and I quickly lost interest in reading. The ending is one that has been rehashed over and over. I suggest reading some of his earlier works or another author's work...
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on July 16, 2009
Admittedly, this is not the topnotch writing that I've come to expect from my favorite author, but I liked the story just the same. Yes, this is no "Poet", but for me he's entitled to stumble once. And it was a minor stumble, because for the first time this story wasn't as compelling as the many other novels by Mr Connelly. And I've read them all. And I anxiously wait for the next.
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on December 13, 2014
If you're departing on a short trip or vacation then this is the book to take. A four-day excursion to South Carolina last week had me immersed in this wonderful, Connelly strong, murder mystery. My go/no-go meter for these thriller genre books has always been one of entertainment and interest...do I find myself held by the book and do I find myself having a difficult time putting it down. And the answer to both is an emphatic YES. Connelly, with this work, weaves an intricate plot full of compelling and persuasive developments, with characters that are believable, although admittedly not Dickensian, while masterly tying all points together to form a gripping page turner that literally had me rushing back to my hotel to finish. I cannot imagine anyone wanting more.

Jack McEvoy is our protagonist again, the L.A. Times reporter now on the downside of his career, years departed from his pinnacle, the killing and reporting/book writing of serial killer "The Poet." In fact, with the rapid emergence of on-line news, The Times has found itself having to downsize its paper journalism swiftly, to the point where veteran journalists are even being ousted. McEvoy's comes, predictably, soon after the story opens...but there's a stipulation...he's allowed to hang on an extra two weeks if agrees to train his replacement, a young blonde named Angela Cook who has no experience but who is techno-savvy and has a significantly smaller salary. Through their turnover process, they take on a story of a woman's body found in the trunk of her car and the admitted perpetrator, a sixteen year-old gang-banger and investigate it through the discovery of a highly intelligent, techno-savvy serial killer who executes his victims and who leaves behind his "Scarecrow" signature.

The story builds, Angela gets killed by the "Scarecrow" and McEvoy becomes reunited with FBI agent Rachel Walling, his true love and his Federal assistant on The Poet case those many years ago. McEvoy and Walling track the case through many twists and turns that reveal Connelly's brilliant research to an ending, although predictable, that is nevertheless exciting, dramatic and, to me, vastly entertaining to read. Connelly, surprisingly, also adds a rather esoteric last chapter, one that explores the innermost workings of the killer's mind that is not only provocative but literarily captivating...a welcome and penetrating ending.

I've admittedly not read many of Connelly's Bosch series nor his Lincoln Lawyer works but I believe that I've now engaged enough with him to understand his style and agenda and so to the critics out there who pan this as "boring" or "not plausible," I have to shake my head...how is it possible to read this and provide negative commentary? This is classic "Michael Connelly!" Within this book he combines an amazingly stimulating plot along with research backed/technologically strong supporting structure while writing in an inimitable design that has become perfectly designed for this order. Yes, this was a predictable" novel...but it was "predictable" from page one! We all knew who the killer was from the very beginning! People, Connelly is never going to be strong on character development or depth nor is he going to be a novelist that allows intellectual growth to overtake the action/mystery component of the plot. He is a crime/thriller/mystery writer and one of the best, with "The Scarecrow" right up there among his most impressive works. So back off from the negativity and enjoy this for what it is...an exemplary work of research constructed into a novel of significant proportions. "The Scarecrow" is so immutably Michael Connelly that everyone should take it up and enjoy...I know that I did.
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on August 10, 2009
This is one of Connelly's best mysteries. It is also an obituary for all newspapers, although focused on the Los Angeles TIMES. Not everyone will grieve with Connelly as I do. I was in email contact with an editor at the LA TIMES on a day when 140 people were let go. I have spent months, all told, in the old NYPL Annex and many other libraries reading nineteenth-century newspapers, my head in a microfilm reader or standing in pain over low flat tables turning big pages or, very rarely, working at a high slanted stand kind to the back. I have a special love of American papers when 10 or 12 papers were in tough competition and another 20 or 25 catered to special audiences. Many, many other readers of Connelly will bring their own newspaper history to THE SCARECROW, and grieve in their way. This is a fine mystery, but it is more. This early tribute to the vanishing newspaper may remain one of the most heartbreaking anyone ever writes.
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on July 13, 2009
Big Connelly/Bosch fan. Maybe cause for feeling less than fulfilled with McEvoy at the end. Racheal and FBI cohorts seem inept. Above average quick read delivered from almost anyone else, but I expect more from Connelly.
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on March 17, 2015
Jack McElvoy and Rachael Walling team up again in this fast paced thriller. The plot has many twists as Rachael loses her position with the FBI and Jack is laid off by the L.A. Times in a round of budget cutting at a slowly dying newspaper. They risk everything, including their lives, as the track a pair of sadistic killers through California, Arizona and Nevada. Harry and Rachael are familiar characters to Michael Connelly fans. They were last together in "The Poet" and "The Scarecrow" was like getting together with two old friends. "The Scarecrow" explored the dark side of the Internet. I enjoyed this book very much and found it hard to put down. I hope Harry and Rachael are brought together again in another book. They are a good match and the possibility of more adventures was raised as the story raced to its exciting conclusion. If you're looking for a real page-turner, this is it. I recommend it to all thriller fans.
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on April 28, 2015
This story could not hold my interest. It seemed to plod on and on. I guess computers rare not "all that" to me. I do lament the disappearance off print held in my hands. I have a Kindle because real books cost too much for a senior citizen and the mysteries I wanted we're always checked out. Now that I'm semi-ambulatory. The trip involves two people. The dog eat dog atmosphere at the paper begins as early as Journalism in high school. I really like Mr. Connelly's writing. This one didn't quite make the cut, and I finished feeling s bit depressed. thus, 3 stars. On to his next book!
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on June 21, 2009
I have been reading and enjoying Michael Connelly's novels for many years. However, this is the first time I really had to work at getting through one of his stories. The plot was very predictable: there is a sociopathic killer with bizarre fetishes. Our heroes go after him. The rest is pure formula and very predictable. FBI Agent Rachel Walling was particularly cardboard. And McEvoy was indistinct from Connelly's Harry Bosch character--- the dialogue and thoughts could have been written for either character. I'm hoping that Mr. Connelly's next book is a little more creative. What was worthwhile were the descriptions of life in the moribund newspaper business. These were the book's saving grace.
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