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Fair Warning


Fair Warning

It has been a while, to say the least. Journalist Jack McEvoy was introduced by Michael Connelly in THE POET almost a quarter-century ago. He was supposed to be a one-off character but returned in THE SCARECROW, which was published in 2009. All but forgotten, and undeservedly so, the announcement that McEvoy would reappear in FAIR WARNING was greeted with joy by longtime Connelly readers, who will find that their prayers have been answered and their patience more than rewarded.

Given Connelly’s long and extensive background as a reporter, it is not surprising that McEvoy is so accurately drawn. While much has changed on the surface since his debut,  the nuts and bolts of successful and honest investigative reporting has stayed the same, and McEvoy embodies these qualities. In this new outing, he is working as an investigative reporter for FairWarning, a website that investigates and reports consumer fraud. Small but mighty, it has quite a reach and a sterling reputation. Given that it does not hide behind a paywall, it relies on no-strings-attached fundraising to obtain great cupfuls of money to stay in operation.

"McEvoy is realistic, so much so that when one reads the passages where he is front and center, it seems as if we are in the room with him."

Accordingly, McEvoy finds himself in the position of making a bit of a stretch to his editor when he comes across an extremely clever killer who is preying upon women by making their very intentional deaths appear to be accidents. We learn, well before him, that the culprit refers to himself as The Shrike and is cutting quite a wide swath in pursuit of his victims. McEvoy works the case from the other direction, finding what seems to be an initially tenuous consumer issue in an industry that has grown by leaps and bounds over the past several years. The issue --- and I am being oblique here because I don’t want to give away the game that Connelly so intricately and wonderfully constructs --- is one that in our real world we either ignore or occasionally welcome, which is surprising considering the privacy concerns it entails.

McEvoy gets to the heart of the matter and exposes it while painstakingly chasing down the identity of the anonymous killer, even as he eventually finds himself in the sights of The Shrike, who, in the end, is much closer to him than he suspects. It’s a wild ride in spots, so much so the final quarter of FAIR WARNING should come with its own “fasten seat belts” warning.

Connelly will never be accused of having a strong literary style, but as a storyteller he is second to none. This talent is possibly eclipsed by his ability to develop and refine primary characters such as McEvoy, whose default nature tends to be mildly abrasive and prickly, especially with his friends and colleagues. It is interesting that he has a great deal of self-awareness and often hits the reset button by apologizing and starting over.

McEvoy is realistic, so much so that when one reads the passages where he is front and center, it seems as if we are in the room with him. Given that Connelly leaves the reader, and his protagonist, hanging on a secondary issue at the end of the book, I hope that we see him back again in another full-length novel…and much sooner than later.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on May 28, 2020

Fair Warning
by Michael Connelly

  • Publication Date: February 2, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 466 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1538736330
  • ISBN-13: 9781538736333