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Literature / The Scarecrow

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The Scarecrow is a 2009 crime novel written by Michael Connelly.

The novel revisits Jack McEvoy, crime reporter and hero of previous Connelly novel The Poet. Life has been something of a disappointment for Jack since he hit the big time with his true crime book The Poet. He was hired to a hefty salary by the Los Angeles Times but in the thirteen years since he has not written any other books, with an unfinished and failed novel sitting in a drawer. He has not seen Rachel Walling, the FBI agent he fell in love with while chasing The Poet. And to make matters worse, the relentless decline of the newspaper industry has resulted in Jack being fired from the Times, but not before he has to train his replacement, fresh-faced young reporter Angela Cook.

Jack fields a call from the grandmother of Alonso Winslow, a gangbanger being held on a murder charge involving a stripper found dead in the trunk of a car. Jack's investigation of the murder soon leads to a completely different direction, eventually taking him to a computer "server farm" in Arizona, run by a computer tech named Wesley Carver, who has some dark secrets.

Followed 11 years later by a third Jack McEvoy novel, Fair Warning. No connection with the villain from the Batman universe, or with the 1920 film by Buster Keaton.


  • And I Must Scream: After being shot through the head, Carver is left in an irreversible coma, suffering from terrible pain, trapped in his own mind and unable to communicate.
  • Chekhov's Gun: One of Jack's co-workers has a picture from The Wizard of Oz hanging on her wall. This eventually leads Jack to figure out the "scarecrow" connection to the murders. And the murderer's website, Denslow Data, turns out to be a Shout-Out to W.W. Denslow, the illustrator of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Hank the kitchen man has to start puffing on a smoke after a murderer barrels through the kitchen and Jack rescues a hog-tied Rachel from a room service cart.
  • Continuity Nod: As appropriate to Connelly's heavily populated universe. Rachel Walling makes reference to her romance with Harry Bosch. Jack recalls writing stories about a lawyer who ran a practice from his limo, that being Mickey Haller from The Lincoln Lawyer. When discussing the body in the trunk Rachel mentions the murder behind the Hollywood Bowl that was the plot of Trunk Music. Jack remembers Rachel's involvement in the Echo Park shootout that was the climax to Echo Park. The stripper murdered in Las Vegas worked at the fictional Cleopatra casino, which was the casino that was robbed in Void Moon. Jack remembers how Michael Warren, now his coworker at the Times, once dealt with him unethically; that happened in The Poet.
  • Covert Pervert: After Carver hacks into Angela's computer, he discovers that she likes to visit a dominatrix bondage website. It's not played for humor like this trope often is, as Carver is a deranged Serial Killer.
  • Disney Villain Death: How Freddy Stone, Carver's murder partner, meets his end after a fight with Jack.
  • Downer Beginning: The first chapter from Jack's POV finds him having failed to write a novel, having been married and divorced, and just laid off from his job.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Carver is shown right off the bat not just alerting the authorities to a hacker, but stealing all the hacker's money and framing him for child porn.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: A picture from The Wizard of Oz leads Jack to realize the resemblance between the traditional representation of a scarecrow and the suffocated murder victims, leading him to realize that Carver is the real killer.
  • Everything Is Online: Carver uses his all-access Internet pass (he's head of security at a server farm) to really screw with Jack McEvoy.
  • Exact Words: Technically it wasn't a lie when the cops said Alonzo Winslow confessed. They just didn't mention the confession wasn't about the crime he was arrested for.
  • Groin Attack: A well-placed kick to the nuts nearly allows Freddy Stone to win his fight with Jack.
  • Internal Affairs: Rachel runs afoul of the Office of Professional Responsibility, "the bureau's version of Internal Affairs," after commandeering an FBI plane to save Jack from a murderer. The OPR still has a grudge against her from the events of The Poet and is looking for an excuse to drum her out of the bureau.
  • Involuntary Charity Donation: The villain hacks into one of Jack's accounts and donates the money.
  • Knuckle Tattoos: Jack gives up on questioning one particular gangbanger when he notices said gangbanger has "FUCK DA50" tattooed across his knuckles.
  • Lying to the Perp: The cops questioning Alonzo Winslow employ this tactic when they tell him his hands match the strangling marks found on the victim's neck. He replies that the victim wasn't strangled. Not only he comes with a reason to know this in spite of not being the killer but he turns out to be the innocent man he claims to be.
  • Missing White Woman Syndrome: Jack calls out an LAPD captain on the Rodia Gardens raid, noting that the cops only mounted a raid on the crime-ridden housing project after a resident of Rodia Gardens was connected to the murder of a white woman.
  • Mood Whiplash: Jack and Rachel make love, followed by a warm, romantic aftermath, followed by Jack discovering a dead body under his bed.
  • New Media Are Evil: One of the running themes of the book is the devastation being wreaked on the newspaper business by the Internet and how stories aren't going to get covered. Jack is laid off at the start of the book as downsizing at the LA Times continues.
  • Punk in the Trunk: Denise Babbit was found stuffed into the trunk of her car. When Jack discovers a Las Vegas murder that was carried out the same way with the victim stuffed into the trunk of a car, he realizes that Alonzo Winslow is innocent and there is a serial killer on the loose.
  • Reverse Whodunnit: It is established very early that Carver and Stone are the real killers in the murder that Alonzo Winslow was arrested for. The suspense is in how Jack McEvoy will track them down.
  • Serial Killer: Carver and Stone have killed multiple women, and Carver has killed more in the past.
  • Switching P.O.V.: Switches back and forth between Carver the murderer (told in third person) and McEvoy the reporter (told in first-person narration). This is the same structure Connelly used for previous Jack McEvoy novel The Poet.
  • Television Geography: McEvoy drives Highway 50, "The Loneliest Road in America", from Las Vegas to Ely, Nevada. Unfortunately Highway 50 does not go to Las Vegas; it is the east-west road that one would take from Carson City to Ely. From Las Vegas one would take the north-south road, Highway 93 (just as lonely, but without a colorful nickname), to Ely.
  • Title Drop: The server farm being called a "farm", Wesley Carver is nicknamed "The Scarecrow" because his job is fending off people who try and hack into the farm.
  • Title Drop Chapter: The last chapter, a brief and grim postscript that describes Carver's And I Must Scream ending, is called "The Scarecrow".
  • A True Story in My Universe: Within the Michael Connelly universe, The Poet is a true crime book written by Jack McEvoy.
  • Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: Jack gets stuck in a casino elevator with "Sideburns", the annoyingly chatty man who was sitting next to him at the slot machines. As Sideburns blabs, Jack regrets not taking the stairs. Shortly after he finds out that Sideburns is one of the bad guys and he narrowly escaped being murdered. (It was Freddy Stone, Carver's sidekick and partner in serial killing.)
  • Villain Opening Scene: The book kicks off with Carver in the server farm, doing some terrible things to someone who has tried to hack in.