The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly

Whew. This novel is like biting into the hottest pepper and sweating it out, drinking as much cold water as you can before hours later the heat wears off bit by bit. I picked this mystery up last night at about 8 p.m. intending to read about 100 pages before bed. Now, let me tell you first, that I should have known better. I am a notorious one-sitting reader. So once I began this marathon mystery, I was in deep trouble. The premise is based on a character, Jack McEvoy, a news reporter who, at the start of the book, finds out he has been laid off from the L.A. Times and has two weeks left if he will train his replacement, the younger, technologically-savvy Angela Cook. He begrudgingly agrees and is coming to terms with his new life when he gets a random phone call.

Wanda Sessums calls about a one-inch column McEvoy had written days before about a young gangbanger arrested for the brutal assault and murder of a stripper. The woman claims her son is innocent, but the cynical McEvoy doesn’t quite believe it. However, he sees a way to go out with a bang, writing a story about a 16-year-old murderer. However, there is more than meets the eye. Told from first person, McEvoy’s narrator is every bit as gritty as any hard-boiled detective I’ve come across. He quickly realizes, through Cook’s help, that there is something more sinister going on than a simple drug deal gone wrong, as the police believe.

The disconcerting part of the story and the part that had me breaking out in a cold sweat is the third-person narration of the “farmer,” Carver, a digital security specialist who the reader quickly finds to be disturbing, cold, and calculating. He is called “the farmer” because he is in charge of the digital “farm” or colocation center, collecting data and security information for a number of businesses. Quite honestly, the ease in which Carver hacks into government websites, bank accounts, and email accounts, was petrifying and made me want to quit the digital world entirely. Ha.

Combining murder, sadism, fetishes, digital tracking, and identity theft, Connelly had me racing to the finish line in order to be able to fall asleep. Of course, I had to watch That Touch of Mink, a lighthearted Cary Grant/Doris Day movie before finally drifting off. Personally, I like my detectives/protagonists to be dark and complex, which McEvoy certainly is. However, for obvious reasons, the torture, sexual assault, and murder of women can be a bit difficult for me to read and can keep me up at night.

The Cary Grant was a nice finish for such a night and really the only way I finally washed the hot pepper taste out of my mouth…


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