Friday, May 22, 2009

Welcome back, Jack McEvoy!

It's the art of serendipity. Pick up a book, get hooked.

That happened to Malcolm, over a decade ago, with Michael Connelly's The Poet. Fairly early on, Malcolm recognised he was not scanning through yet another teccie or thriller, but thoroughly reading a real honest-to-goodness Novel.

And The Poet (along with Connelly's "Harry Bosch" sequence) is as much of a respectable novel, worthily placed on those elevated shelves marked "Literature", as are the "teccies" of Charles Dickens (think Inspector Bucket's pursuit of Lady Dedlock in Bleak House) or of Wilkie Collins.

This weekend, Marilyn Stasio, for the the New York Times Sunday Book Review is noting the return of the protagonist, Jack McEvoy, from The Poet in Connelly's latest, The Scarecrow.

Stasio's preview suggests a wider dimension. McEvoy is about to be made redundant by the LA Times. He desperately needs to crack the new case to keep his job, and to keep his personal respect. There is the frequent plot-device in a Connelly work: the time limit. As Stasio has it:
Connelly, who has the nerve and timing of a whole SWAT team, gives Jack two weeks to find the creep who’s been raping and killing attractive long-legged women and dumping their remains in car trunks — if his young replacement doesn’t beat him to the story. But this ambitious upstart is too lovely and leggy for her own good, and the smart money’s on Jack. To make the story sexier, Jack picks up a partner — Rachel Walling, the supersmart FBI agent who jeopardized her career for him in “The Poet.” These two follow the Internet trail of identity theft, pornography Web sites, electronic surveillance and industrial sabotage right to its source, a vast data processing and storage operation known as “the farm” and protected by a certain mastermind known as the Scarecrow.
Malcolm notices this is not just a "story", a narrative, it is also a reflection on the days in which we live.

Newspapers are closing. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer died, at least in its printed form, last St Patrick's Day. The San Francisco Chronicle may yet go the same way. The LA Times is in a state of flux: last year 250 jobs were cut; and the paper lost 15% of its pages; this year the cover price rose by half. Yet this is one of the great newspapers of America, arguably about the only one capable of standing comparison with the Gray Lady and the WaPo.

So, as Stasio summarises:
... the damage done by this electronically savvy killer is nothing compared with the slaughter of the nation’s newspapers, which Connelly compresses into the grim fight for life going on at The Los Angeles Times. Once “the best place in the world to work” but now “an intellectual ghost town,” its ominously quiet newsroom is the harbinger of a time when there will be no eyes left to watch the nation or voices to sound an alarm. “In many ways,” Jack says in his chilling requiem for the industry, “I was relieved that I would not be around to see it.”
That review-column is poignantly entitled Mourning Paper.

Malcolm already has Connelly's book for collection tomorrow (it published in the UK on 12th May, but had not appeared in Malcolm's local book-shop last week-end).

But, first, to finish the Susanna Gregory, which has sat beside Malcolm's bed this last month. Sphere: Related Content


Dewi Harries said...

Buying mine today.....shame no Bosch however.

Malcolm Redfellow said...

Let's hope, Dewi, we are not disappointed.

The Amazon rating is (I think) just 3½ stars.

Today's Times review, by the usually-reliable Marcel Berlins, is brief but positive:

Connelly has already proved, with his "Lincoln Lawyer" courtroom thrillers, that there is life after his hugely successful Harry Bosch LAPD cop series. With The Scarecrow he finds yet another kind of crime fiction in which to excel.Like you, I would greatly lament the loss of Harry Bosch. It looks as if Bosch 15, entitled 9 Dragons is due in the autumn.

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