When I was a youngster, living in a world before television, I listened to the radio. One of my favorite shows was The Shadow. He was a black robed mysterious crime fighter. The entry line of the show always contained the phrase: “Who knows what evil lurks in the minds of men? The Shadow knows.”
Unfortunately we have yet to pinpoint what turns some delightful little boys and girls into monsters as they mature. In The Scarecrow, Michael Connelly explores that question as well revealing the dangers of the transparency of the virtual world in which we work and communicate.
Jack McEvoy is a veteran reporter for the Los Angeles Times who has been downsized and in fourteen days will be unemployed. Shortly after getting his layoff notice, he receives a cryptic phone call from a woman who accuses him of lying in a story he wrote about her son being a murder.
He follows up and discovers that the woman is actually the grandmother of a sixteen year old boy who has been arrested for the brutal murder of a beautiful prostitute. Further probing convinces him that the boy is not the killer.
His editor assigns him to write a story about the unusual crime. He is paired with a young woman reporter, Angela Cook, who he is supposed to mentor for his last two weeks on the job. He suspects that she is the person assigned to replace him. Her computer skills uncover similar murders that have been committed throughout the southwestern United States. Several other beautiful girls have been tortured and smothered with a plastic bag; a cord tied around their necks and left in automobile trunks.
Jack senses that he has uncovered a story much bigger than anyone else has anticipated. He involves FBI agent Rachel, an old love interest, and taps sources that he has developed as an LA Times reporter for 16 years.
All this puts him on the trail of a crew of brilliant computer hackers who use their skills to find and stalk young women. This sets Jack off on a journey of discovery that leads him to Las Vegas to investigate a similar crime. This further leads him to an Arizona company that houses sensitive data from personal and corporate computers all over the world.
Although brilliant, well paid and highly respected in their profession, three employees of Western Data are hiding an evil aspect of their lives. They use the resources of the global company to select victims for their sadistic games. They discover that Jack, Angela and Rachel are hunting them and turn on their pursuers with devastating effect. Some of Jack’s colleagues escape the criminals’ attacks, some do not.
This a good story. Reading it will make you wonder who is out their looking at your life story recorded on digital servers all over the world. It will also make you wonder what causes seemingly normal people to indulge in evil and monstrous acts.
I found The Scarecrow to be a very good read. Watch out James Patterson, Michael Connelly is a talent to be reckoned with.