Book review: Fair Warning by Michael Connelly

Sunday, May 10, 2020 Permalink

We first met journalist Jack McEvoy in The Poet (published in 1996), one of the first books I read by Michael Connelly. Jack reappeared in The Scarecrow (2009) but he’s been kinda quiet ever since. (Though I know there was a crossover or two with Harry Bosch.)

I’ve actually got very vivid memories of reading The Poet (which is rare given I read a lot of books that are quite similar, AND it was a long time ago) so was keen to be reintroduced to Jack (all of these years later) in Connelly’s new release, Fair Warning.

Book review: Fair Warning by Michael ConnellyFair Warning Jack McEvoy #3
by Michael Connelly
Series: Jack McEvoy #3
Published by Allen & Unwin AU
on 26/05/2020
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Crime Fiction
ISBN: 9781760877989
Pages: 388

Veteran reporter Jack McEvoy has taken down killers before, but when a woman he had a one-night stand with is murdered in a particularly brutal way, McEvoy realizes he might be facing a criminal mind unlike any he's ever encountered.

McEvoy investigates---against the warnings of the police and his own editor---and makes a shocking discovery that connects the crime to other mysterious deaths across the country. But his inquiry hits a snag when he himself becomes a suspect.

As he races to clear his name, McEvoy's findings point to a serial killer working under the radar of law enforcement for years, and using personal data shared by the victims themselves to select and hunt his targets.

As the book opens Jack’s working for Fair Warning, an online consumer watchdog news site. He seems kinda contented and sufficiently enthused by his job, though realising some of his best work (including his two novels) are long behind him.

Jack becomes personally embroiled in a murder because he briefly dated the victim over a year before her death. Her murder is a long way from the briefs they take on at Fair Warning, but he soon finds similar deaths and a link between the dead women.

For reasons unknown I dislike books with a corporate espionage focus. Perhaps white-collar crime just doesn’t do it for me.

This has some reference to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), FTC and business shenanigans, but it’s actually far more nuanced than the usual big ‘pharma’ out-to-screw-the-system (along with the hapless ‘little guys’) scenario.

It may be a bit of a spoiler (though comes up pretty quickly),but I’ll mention that the concept of genomic testing was actually quite interesting and the lack of regulation in the industry is somewhat scary.

I mean… who knew DNA given willingly (for family heritage testing and the like) can then be on-sold. And on-sold again. I mean, I’m all for research but…. as we’re shown here, there are some cowboys out there. Not to mention psychopathic serial killers.

I love Connelly’s lead characters and find them accessible and relatable (I’m a fan of Harry Bosch and Renee Ballard in particular). Here I liked Jack’s relationship with his boss (based on a real life character, Myron) and his colleague Emily. In fact I really appreciated that Connelly was honest about Jack’s antipathy towards handing over / sharing his story with Emily, while at the same time recognising the pair have different strengths.

I also liked that Jack is in his 50s and Myron is – in some ways – a contemporary as much as a boss and so their relationship and Myron’s editorial authority over Jack is quite nuanced. I’m not entirely sure Jack (along with Connelly’s best known creation Bosch), is ageing completely in sync with the rest of us but I’m glad he’s no longer a spring chicken and wonder if that reflects Connelly’s view on life.

Like most of Connelly’s novels, Fair Warning is fast-paced. It’s intriguing rather than twisty but very very addictive. It features clever and contemporary themes and crimes, and I appreciate that Connelly seems to respect the intelligence of his readers, giving us fodder requiring some cogitation.

Finally, I loved that Connelly doesn’t tie everything up too neatly at the end. He leaves us with some unanswered questions and again found myself intrigued rather than feeling any lack of closure.

It seems almost certain there’ll be another in this series and though it makes me sound impatient and demanding…. I bloody hope we don’t have to wait more than a decade for it!

Fair Warning by Michael Connelly will be published in Australia by Allen & Unwin and available from 26 May 2020.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. 


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