Fair Warning is a 2020 novel by Michael Connelly.
It features neither his most frequent protagonist, Detective Harry Bosch nor his second most frequent protagonist, lawyer Mickey Haller. In fact this is the third appearance of Intrepid Reporter Jack McEvoy, 24 years after The Poet and 11 years after McEvoy popped up again in The Scarecrow.
Jack is doing consumer watchdog reporting for a website called FairWarning—at the time it was a real website, although it shut down three months after this book was published. His life hasn't gone as well as he might have hoped since The Scarecrow: royalties from his two books have declined, his car has 160,000 miles on it, and he's had to move to a smaller apartment due to the meager salary from the website. Worst of all, he's broken up again with the love of his life, former FBI agent Rachel Walling. Four years ago, he used her as a source for a story, and he went to jail when a judge demanded he reveal his source. Rachel came forward and identified herself, destroying both their relationship and her FBI career.
Jack's life gets turned upside down when he gets a visit from the LAPD. It seems that a year ago, he had a casual hookup with one Christina Portrero. The police are at his door because Tina Portrero was found in her home with her neck snapped. Jack isn't a serious suspect (and he's soon cleared by DNA), but he's drawn to the story as a reporter. Jack investigates the Portrero case and finds both a brutal Serial Killer and a surprising connection to find-your-ancestry gene websites.
- And the Adventure Continues: It looks like Jack and Rachel may be broken up for good, but she is still going to join him in a murder podcast where the two of them are going to investigate cold cases.
- Continuity Nod: Other than this being a direct sequel to The Poet and The Scarecrow and those books being mentioned, there are fewer than usual in Connelly novels, mostly due to Jack McEvoy not interacting that much with the Harry Bosch 'verse.
- In The Burning Room Harry Bosch, who is making small talk, asks about Jack, and Rachel tells him that Jack is working with fairwarning.org. In this book Connelly fans learn all about that website.
- Jack muses about how he once killed a guy. That was in The Scarecrow.
- He thinks about how his motto used to be "Death is my beat", and at the end he takes it back up as a motto. Those are the Arc Words of The Poet.
- Detective Sakai may, or may not, be related to Larry Sakai, the coroner's technician who was an irritant to Harry Bosch in the early Bosch novels.
- The "single-bullet theory" of love, passed on from Harry Bosch to Rachel and from Rachel to Jack in The Scarecrow, is mentioned again in this novel.
- Danger Takes a Backseat: The Shrike takes this up a notch by hiding in the trunk of Jack's car, behind the hatch from the backseat.
- Downer Beginning: As with all three of the Jack McEvoy books. In this one he's broken up with Rachel (again), and he faces uncertain prospects as a reporter for a struggling shoestring website.
- Down L.A. Drain: The FBI winds up cornering a suspect at a residential dead-end that overlooks the LA River.
- I Never Said It Was Poison: When her hookup parks the car in Tina's parking garage, she realizes she doesn't remember telling him where she lives. She's both drunk and high, though, so she doesn't pick up on what this means.
- Intrepid Reporter: Jack McEvoy chasing a killer once again.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Hammond and Vogel are the two incels who sell the data of unsuspecting women to other incels. Several of those women are killed, and Hammond and Vogel themselves are eventually killed by the Shrike.
- Make It Look Like an Accident: How the Shrike sets up his kills. The funny thing is, it almost never works, as the scenarios the Shrike creates (a fall in the shower, suicide-by-hanging with a one-foot drop) are not the sort of scenes that cause snapped necks.
- Malicious Misnaming: Detective Mattson mispronounces Jack's last name as "Mick-evoy". Soon enough Jack realizes that Mattson has a grudge against him and is doing it on purpose.
- Neck Snap: Played straight, as the Shrike is a serial killer who dispatches his victims this way, using nothing but muscle power to twist a victim's head around until her spine snaps.
- New Media Are Evil: Inverted at the end, when Jack and Rachel decide to turn the podcast into a crime-fighting tool.
- New Technology is Evil: Explores the possibility of a DNA-testing service having its data hacked as a way to find potential victims for a serial killer.
- Really Gets Around: There's a gene for Really Gets Around, namely, the DRD4 gene, which supposedly leads to risk-taking behavior like going out to bars and picking up men. The incel creeps are selling the identities of women with the DRD4 to other incel creeps.
- Real Person Cameo: Myron Levin, Jack's boss at FairWarning, is a real guy who really did run FairWarning.org.
- Serial Killer: The Shrike, who hooks up with women that he tracks down from the incel website, and kills them.
- Switching P.O.V.: There's Jack's first-person narration, a goodly chunk of the novel that is told third-person from the POV of Marshall Hammond the incel creep, and chapters throughout from the POV of the Shrike.
- Take That!: Jack thinks very little of Donald Trump and his habit of calling reporters "enemies of the people".
- Title Drop: There's the website, which is mentioned many times. The Shrike also tells Hammond that the latter's email to him was "fair warning about a reporter from FairWarning."
- A True Story in My Universe: Much as The Poet was revealed in The Narrows to be a Jack McEvoy true crime book in the Connelly universe, The Scarecrow is revealed to be a true crime book in this novel. If there's ever a fourth Jack McEvoy novel, maybe Fair Warning will be a true crime book as well.
- The Unreveal: In the last chapter Jack explains that they never did find out who the Shrike was. He carried no ID and neither his prints nor his DNA were in the system anywhere.
- Villain Opening Scene: The first chapter is the Shrike killing Tina Portrero, before the story picks up with Jack.