The Scarecrow

[Amazon Link]

Another excellent Michael Connelly crime novel. Connelly's usual protagonist, Harry Bosch, is absent, but gets indirectly mentioned here and there.

The primary hero is from a previous Connelly book, The Poet: reporter Jack McEvoy. Jack is working the crime beat for the LA Times as the book opens, but he's targeted in the latest flurry of downsizing. Does that mean a short book? No.

Jack decides to do One Last Big Story, triggered by a hectoring phone call from the grandmother of Alonzo, a teenage ghetto gangster currently in jail for a grisly murder. Initially, Jack's intention is to write about how a dysfunctional society and family structure turned a kid into a killer. But he notices something disturbing: the crime bears a beyond-coincidental similarity to a previous murder that Alonzo could not have perpetrated. Jack realizes that he's uncovered a serial killer who's also an expert in framing someone else for the deeds.

Jack turns to FBI profiling expert Rachel Walling for assistance, and they become a crack investigatory team, mostly flouting the rules and guidelines of their respective superiors.

Jack's tale is interspersed with chapters from the point of view of the murderer, Carver. (This is not a spoiler, it's revealed very early in the book.) He turns out to be a gifted hacker, working as a chief security officer for an Internet colocation firm. (He has a unique way of dealing with attempted breaches: planting child pornography on the attacker's machine.) He is as dangerously crafty as he is homicidally insane.

Connelly's dialogue is occasionally stilted, but who cares? He remains an expert at dragging this reader into the yarn.

Instructions Not Included

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Multicultural night at Pun Salad Manor: a Mexican movie which (according to IMDB) is the "highest-grossing Spanish-language film released in the United States." Although I wasn't as wild about it as the Netflix algorithm thought I would be, it was decent. It is tough to classify, since it starts out as a slapstick comedy, and then turns into a courtroom drama, eventually morphing into a tear-jerker.

It was directed, co-written, and stars Eugenio Derbez, who plays Valentín. He's initially an Acapulco beach bum whose sole purpose in life is to lure American female tourists into the sack. That works well, until one of his previous conquests, Julie, shows up on his doorstep with baby Maggie, claiming that Valentín is Maggie's father. It's a Three Men and a Baby scenario, except that it's missing Tom Selleck and Steve Guttenberg. And, er, Ted Danson not speaking English at all.

Valentín decides to track Julie back to the USA. But his plans to give Maggie back are derailed. Instead, they quickly bond, and Valentín decides to properly care for Maggie, getting good work as a movie stunt man. (This provides a lot of laughs.) But then, years later, Julie reappears, and we are quickly into a Kramer Vs. Kramer scenario.

Consumer note: mostly in Spanish, with subtitles. The original title in Mexico was No se Aceptan Devoluciones, which translates (according to the Google) as "No Returns are Accepted". Fun stuff, but note what I said above about tears.


Last Modified 2014-06-27 1:39 PM EDT