Tuesday, May 26, 2009

'The Scarecrow' by Michael Connelly

Jack McEvoy has one more murder story to write and one more killer to catch -- before he leaves the L.A. Times for good.

The novels and short stories we conveniently pigeonhole as "genre fiction" often are the tripwires of our literature's social consciousness.

It's unsurprising, therefore, that the first fictional work to take the newspaper industry's agonizing decline as its backdrop is a mystery, nor that its author, Michael Connelly, is a onetime crime reporter who spent the last years of his print career at the Los Angeles Times. He's one of the masters of contemporary crime fiction with a Stakhanovite work ethic that must have delighted his city room editors as much as it now does his legions of fans. "The Scarecrow" is his 20th novel and 21st book since 1993. It's also his best work since "The Poet" 13 years ago and revives that bestselling novel's main character, newspaper police reporter Jack McEvoy.

Back then, McEvoy was toiling for Denver's Rocky Mountain News -- now closed, as this new book acknowledges -- and since has published a bestselling true crime book and been hired onto the staff of the Los Angeles Times at a big salary. These days, that's like having a large target painted on your back, and "The Scarecrow" opens with McEvoy being called into a supercilious assistant managing editor's office and given notice that he's being laid off -- with a two-week grace period to train his replacement, a newly minted J-school grad with dewy cheeks and an ability to file with equal superficiality to every online, broadcast and hand-held "platform" imaginable. [Click for MORE]
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