- 27 May 20
Thriller Master Connelly Delivers Again
Although Michael Connelly is best known for his tough as old boots (former) LAPD detective who lives in the house on stilts, Hieronymus ‘Harry’ Bosch, he has expanded his Bosch universe to include other recurring characters like Bosch’s half- brother, attorney Mickey Haller. It’s Haller who Matthew McConaughey played in The Lincoln Lawyer. Another character who’s popped up a few times is reporter Jack McEvoy, and it’s McEvoy who is the focus of Fair Warning.
He first featured way back in the 1996 novel The Poet, and that would have been his last appearance too, had not then FBI agent Rachel Walling saved his arse. Both characters also featured in 2009’s The Scarecrow – Walling saves McEvoy, again - as well as separately showing up in Bosch and Haller stories. Walling is one of the main characters here too. Yes, it’s complicated, and Connelly is nothing if not prolific – there’s another Bosch/Haller book due later this year – but he’s one of the best in the thriller business, so it’s worth the effort.
All that being said, readers don’t need to arrive with any baggage. You can dive straight in here and get the same kick as any long-term Connellite. McEvoy is working for a consumer watchdog website – the Fair Warning of the title. He’s slightly down at heel, reduced in status from better times when his crime books were best sellers. “Four years ago I lost everything because of a story” he moans, referring back to previous events involving Rachel Walling, where McEvoy went to prison rather than reveal her a source. Walling came forward, which freed McEvoy but it cost her job with the FBI.
McEvoy gets his collar felt by the police because of a previous dalliance with a murder victim. His DNA clears him from suspicion, but his antennae are up and he starts an investigation of his own. It's a plot line which allows Connelly to take a swipe at the emerging but poorly regulated DNA industry. We’ve all seen the ads offering to reveal our heritage by sending off a swab of our genetic code from the inside of our cheeks, but what happens to this information? Connelly’s hit on an interesting topic here, around which he builds his page turner. If a DNA company is willing to reveal all your ancestral secrets for the laughable fee of just $23 – as GT23 are here – then how do the make up the shortfall in revenue? It unsurprisingly turns out that the data is being sold on to third parties. GT23 are above board about this, but the buyers might not be.
The plot thickens with a couple of unsavoury types, Hammond and Vogel, who advertise women who have the genetic sequence DRD4 – which is associated with possible sex addiction – on their dark web site Dirty4. The wares that these horrid incel lowlifes are peddling attract a serial killer called The Shrike, who dispatches his victims by atlanto-occipital dislocation – that is, twisting a neck a long way past where it’s supposed to go – and we’re off to the races.
The plot moves along at the bouncing pace you would expect from Connelly, and he uses the opportunity to have a go at the post-fact era too. “Fake news, enemy of the people, the president cancelling subscriptions to the Washington Post and New York Times, “ declares McEvoy with a passion which possibly stems from the fact that Connelly himself used to work as a journalist. “The LAPD think nothing of just throwing a reported in jail. At what point do we stake a stand?” No prizes for guessing which way the author will vote in November. The dramatis personae is peopled with noble characters like Jack’s editor Myron Levin, who stands firmly behind his man, and lawyer Hervé Gasper, who may or may not be performing some Deep Throat action, so you only kind of miss Bosch. Accordingly, despite an ending that’s a bit predictable - although no less exciting for that, this will do very nicely until Connelly's main man returns later in the year.