Friday, August 15, 2014

mini-book reviews: The Overlook, The Brass Verdict, and The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly

I've been tearing through Michael Connelly's lengthy backlist, and I often find myself with repetitive things to say about them, so I'll mostly be doing mini-reviews of his titles, unless one compels me to write more deeply.

Note: these reviews all contain some spoilers and references to previous Connelly books.

The Overlook is the thirteenth book in Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch series. It was originally published as a serial, and this pacing is evident. It's also a short novel, particularly by Connelly standards. Harry Bosch is now working with the Homicide Special unit, and he's called to investigate the murder of Dr. Stanley Kent. The case soon becomes a race against time due to the presence of missing radioactive agents. While the story is still a murder mystery at its core, it's more of a terrorism thriller. The pace is frenetic, and I cannot imagine having the patience to read it in its original serial form. Connelly masterfully, or perhaps annoyingly, ends each chapter with a cliffhanger. I raced through this one even faster than I usually do, and while the plot was interesting, there was minimal character development or action outside of the case. It's to be expected, of course, as I imagine the serial nature of this novel was designed at least partially to lure in new readers. While I enjoyed the mystery and the insight into terrorism, I missed the other hallmarks of Connelly's Bosch novels.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Source: library

The Brass Verdict is the second mystery in Michael Connelly's Mickey Haller series. It also features Harry Bosch. Mickey is coming off of a rough couple of years, including an addiction to pain killers after the events in The Lincoln Lawyer. He hasn't been practicing law, yet when his old friend and fellow criminal defense attorney Jerry Vincent is murdered, a clause in his will leaves his caseload to Mickey. The highest profile case is that of defendant Walter Elliott, a Hollywood executive accused of murdering his wife and her lover. While Mickey defends Elliott, Bosch investigates the murder of Vincent, which may or may not be related to Elliott or one of his other clients. The combination of Mickey and Harry was a treat. It seemed organic rather than a contrived plot device, and both mysteries had momentum throughout the novel. The ending is a tour de force of Michael Connelly twists, as multiple storylines end up with shocking and satisfying surprises.

Rating: 5 out of 5
Source: library

The Scarecrow is the second mystery in Michael Connelly's Jack McEvoy series (McEvoy has appeared as a minor character in a couple of other novels, but he's back to serving as a narrator and primary character here.) McEvoy is a veteran journalist, most famous for his role in The Poet case. Here he finds himself getting laid off from his newspaper job and searching for one last big story while he trains his much younger (and cheaper) replacement. He picks the case of Alonzo Winslow, a 16-year-old drug dealer who allegedly confessed to a brutal murder. He soon finds himself once again on the trail of a serial killer who has previously gone undetected. I'm a big fan of McEvoy as a character, and once again he stumbles upon a case that proves to be bigger than others thought. Once again, it's easy to understand why a journalist stumbles upon the connections rather than police from different divisions. Simultaneously, Connelly also writes from the point-of-view of the killer, which is mostly successful. I appreciated the insight, but it makes the resolution more of a thriller than a mystery, as the reader knows more about the plot events than any of the characters.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Source: library

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