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The Scarecrow    by Michael Connelly order for
by Michael Connelly
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Scarecrow follows The Poet as the second - after a long hiatus - of Michael Connelly's thrillers starring Jack McEvoy (whose background as an LA crime reporter mimics the author's own). McEvoy moved to the LA Times from Colorado for big bucks, based on his bestselling true crime book about the serial killer dubbed The Poet by the media. Now, with serious downsizing in the wind, that high salary works against him and Jack is given two weeks to train his newbie replacement, Angela Cook.

Readers are introduced to Wesley Carver, the titular Scarecrow in the first chapter - it's the nickname given to the chief technology officer/top threat engineer at Western Data, a high security server farm for Internet website hosting. We soon see that this Scarecrow takes threats seriously and his reaction is draconian - after identifying an intruder, 'Carver and his young disciples would loot his personal bank accounts, take his identity and hide photos of men having sex with eight-year-old boys on his work computer.' Scary stuff - but it gets worse.

Just after being fired, Jack is called about Alonzo Winslow (the young suspect in a recent trunk murder) by the boy's grandmother, who claims his innocence. Jack decides to write the story 'that would stand as the tombstone' on his career. Soon ambitious Angela wants in on it, and she uncovers similar cases through Internet research - including a website, trunk murder dot com. Jack then follows the trail of what he believes to be a new serial killer to Las Vegas.

Jack calls FBI Special Agent Rachel Walling (with whom he worked in The Poet and who also had a fling with Connelly's prime series lead, Harry Bosch) for information. After someone begins messing with Jack, cutting off his phone, email and bank accounts, Rachel saves his life but gets into serious trouble with her superiors. Her job on the line, she begins working the case alongside Jack, as they revive their old romance. More deaths follow and both Jack and Rachel are targeted.

Michael Connelly is at the top of his game in The Scarecrow. Jack's reunion with Rachel is very satisfying. And the author adds depth to the intricate thriller that fans have come to expect of him with a fascinating perspective on the state of the newspaper industry - 'It was about the Internet now. It was about hourly uploads to online editions and blogs. It was about television tie-ins and Twitter updates ... The morning paper might as well be called the Daily Afterthought.' The Scarecrow is a must read for thriller fans.

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