I’ve finished four books since my last catalogue. I mentioned before that Fallen (Slaughter) was my latest read. I’ve since moved on from Will Trent no. 5. I then proceeded to tackle this nonfiction title, So Many Books. At 144 pages, this was easily the shortest read of the year thus far. However, looks could be deceiving: the book packs a lot more than its length suggests. I’ve followed that up with my second Connelly of the year. The Scarecrow is number two in the Jack McEvoy series. While not as gripping as The Poet, this is very well-contrived like the bulk of Connelly’s handiwork. I’ve just crested Dynamo’s Nothing is Impossible. I will leave that one for my next list, as three long reviews is sufficient.
- Fallen (Slaughter). As in the previous editions of the series, Slaughter takes a main player and plants the seeds of a thriller. This time, it’s new mum Faith Mitchell as she deals with her mother’s abduction. The novel opens with a familiar scene in the Trent books: a flying first sequence complete with corpses, live-wire action, and an unsolved mystery. While initially an Atlanta PD case, the venerable Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) managed to swoop in and take the case right from Atlanta’s grasp. Evelyn Mitchell is kidnapped, but everything doesn’t make sense. She a model matriarch who shielded her daughter through her teenage pregnancy. She is likewise a former captain with the force who managed to come out unscathed after a corruption scandal. More importantly, she is best friends with Amanda, the GBI head honcho who employs Will Trent. The latter spearheaded the investigation which brought down Evelyn’s team.
The story keeps you guessing and there is a big twist near the end. Like the first four books, Betty, Will’s chihuahua, makes a recurring role. There is even an Angie Polaski sighting, who is Will’s absentee wife. Sara Linton still works here in the emergency ward, but she secretly yearns to help with the case. She realises that she could move on from her deceased husband when she is with Will. As his relationship with Sara heats up, Will must choose between his lifelong partner (Angie) or the woman he loves (Sara). Aside from having romance and intrigue, Fallen also underscores class struggles in middle America. This is apparent even within families, but also in neighbourhoods and the urban setting. Like the rest of the series, this is a top-of-the-line thriller that examines pertinent issues.
2. So Many Books (Gabriel Zaid). A fellow traveller gifted this to me. Thirteen chapters long, this title was released during the turn of the century when online businesses have just started and when landlines were still around. The book is for both writers and readers. Zaid has a habit of rehashing things a few times. For instance, he purported that we could never read all the books ever published. Even if we consume one book a day for all our lives, this would be but a ripple in the ocean. Therefore, we become selective and create our own libraries which we customise to our tastes. Just as all books cannot be read, all titles will vary in sales. Despite the amount of promotion and capital placed on any book, only a minute figure of all books would be bestsellers. Similarly, he observes that the book is an enduring medium. The advents of radio, television, eBooks, and DVDs have all been seen as the end of the physical copy. However, the resilience of the printed book has surprised everyone.
Books are relatively low-risk but potentially high-reward. Compared to the capital required of other media (movies, play, TV shows), books are so cheap. Books also permit greater variety. The bookworm gets more options than if they were watching TV. When he comes to describe ‘the end of the book’, he loses a bit of momentum. For example, he says that portability is what makes book unique. Fifteen years since his proclamation, times have changed. The same goes with reading being done at the reader’s pace; these days, this quality is not only peculiar to the volume. However, his assertion that books can be skimmed remains credible. After all, you can’t just skip through a series or glance at a movie and know the full story. Zaid’s opinions are a bit dated and his writing is not the most accessible, but he does make a few eye-opening viewpoints.
3. The Scarecrow (Connelly). This Jack McEvoy title is not to be confused with the Matthew Reilly series. In the latter, Lieutenant Schofield has the call-sign Scarecrow. The label has more ominous overtones in this one, as McEvoy and FBI agent Rachel Walling attempt to uncover a sadistic killer. At the end of The Poet, Jack pens a tell-all book about the erudite murderer. Here, he is seven years into a job at the LA Times and he is on his way out. The fairy tale ride is long over, replaced with a divorce and a dead-end job. Press conferences in the ageing Parker Centre make it look anachronistic. As if that’s not enough, he has to groom his successor over the last two weeks before his layoff.
However, a callous slaying spices up his humdrum world and soon he finds a trail of lifeless bodies. Two separate killers are in prison for atrocities that they did not commit. As he goes deeper into the maze, his life is threatened. He finds the connection between the victims: all of them had been forced to wear leg braces before their demise. Walling saves his life early on, and he does the same as she faces the sadist in the hotel later on. Scarecrow is set both in LA and in Arizona. The action shifts back and forth between the big city and The Farm.
One will find out that there are two murderers: the kohai and the sempai. In this instance, we know the matador from the start but don’t know how he does it. The finish is classic Connelly: the heroes take the matter into their own hands instead of waiting for backup. The result being not a vanquished foe, but a diminished one. Where the bad guys are caught in films, they are usually dead or incapacitated in the Bosch universe. My guess is that this outcome allows Connelly to move on and to churn out fresh stories every year. He has written north of thirty books, but almost none of them are direct sequels. Give Connelly props on this one for being easy to follow and having short sections.
That’s been the month for me: two nonfiction and two fiction titles, making it six for the former. At this point last year, I’ve only perused two nonfiction works. I’ve also devoured nine authors through my eleven reads this year (last year: only five writers).