Wednesday, February 17, 2010

'The Scarecrow' Shows Pure Genius in Literary Equivalent of 'Criminal Minds'

In The Scarecrow Michael Connelly has written his most intriguing and well-crafted mystery to date. The work he has put into this novel shows particularly because it is not a true mystery at all. Rather, the reader is fully aware of who the villian is from almost the very beginning. In my opinion, that is a bold move because it means that Connelly has to work twice as hard to make things interesting. After all, wondering "whodunnit" is half the draw of a good mystery. Generally, the mystery writer is busy throwing out false leads and wrong turns for his or her readers. Connelly makes his job all the more difficult by answering that from the get-go and forcing his writing to a higher level.

I recently began watching the television crime series Criminal Minds (and yes, I realize it has been on for several seasons already). I'm almost through the first season, and one of the reasons the show keeps my attention is its dramatically different point of view. Rather than only following the path of the victim and the law enforcement officers trying to catch the criminal, Criminal Minds takes viewers into the mind of the criminal himself. Michael Connelly's The Scarecrow is the literary equivalent of that television show. Connelly divides the novel into sections based on location and on the characters present. The story is told from both the perspective of the killer and of those who seek him.

All of Michael Connelly's books tie in together, and this is no exception. Main character Jack McEvoy has appeared in Connelly books before. He starred in his own story in 1996's The Poet, then moonlighted in both Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller novels later on (including the Bosch/Haller crossover novel The Brass Verdict in 2008). Connelly returns to McEvoy as protagonist for The Scarecrow. Connelly also includes FBI agent Rachel Walling, a former love interest for both McEvoy and Harry Bosch.

In The Scarecrow, McEvoy has fallen victim to the age of technology and receives a lay-off notice from the Los Angeles Times. He has two weeks to train his replacement, then he will be on his own. He has plans to finish a novel he started years ago, but other events begin to fall into place that help keep him focused on his career in journalism. Soon he is working on one last big story with the help of his young and beautiful protege Angela Cook. Fresh from journalism school, Angela provides the newspaper with the technological savvy it craves and demands a much lower salary than veteran McEvoy. Angela oversteps her bounds, causing McEvoy to leave town on a chase for a killer. From Las Vegas to the Arizona desert, Connelly provides edge-of-your-seat entertainment to the novel's action-packed end. However, he doesn't leave his reader there; rather, he goes on to close with a haunting look at a cold-blooded psychopath.

Connelly will be speaking and signing books at Currey Ingram Academy in Brentwood, Tennessee, this Saturday morning (and I can't wait to meet him there!). He'll also be in Los Angeles in March and April. Check his schedule to find out when he'll be near you. For more videos from the author, including a three-part mini-movie that details Rachel Walling's activities just prior to The Scarecrow's opening, visit his website.

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