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Fair Warning (Jack McEvoy, 3) Hardcover – May 26, 2020
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An excerpt from Chapter 1
I had called the story “The King of Con Artists.” At least that was my headline. I typed it up top but was pretty sure it would get changed because it would be overstepping my bounds as a reporter to turn in a story with a headline. The headlines and the decks below them were the purview of the editor and I could already hear Myron Levin chiding, “Does the editor rewrite your ledes or call up the subjects of your pieces to ask additional questions? No, he doesn’t. He stays in his lane and that means you need to stay in yours.”
Since Myron was that editor, it would be hard to come back with any sort of defense. But I sent in the story with the suggested headline anyway because it was perfect. The story was about the dark netherworld of the debt-collection business—600 million dollars a year of it siphoned off in scams—and the rule at FairWarning was to bring every fraud down to a face, either the predator’s or the prey’s, the victim’s or the victimizer’s. And this time it was the predator. Arthur Hathaway, the King of Con Artists, was the best of the best. At sixty-two years old, he had worked every con imaginable in a life of crime centered in Los Angeles, from selling fake gold bars to setting up phony disaster-relief websites. Right now, he ran a racket convincing people they owed money that they didn’t really owe, and getting them to pay it. And he was so good at it that junior swindlers were paying him for lessons on Mondays and Wednesdays at a defunct acting studio in Van Nuys. I had infiltrated as one of his students and learned all I could. Now it was time to write the story and use Arthur to expose an industry that bilked millions each year from everybody from little old ladies with dwindling bank accounts to young professionals already deep in the red with college loans. They all fell victim and sent their money because Arthur Hathaway convinced them to send it. And now he was teaching eleven future con men and one undercover reporter how to do it for fifty bucks a head twice a week. The swindler school itself might be his greatest con of all. The guy was truly a king with a psychopath’s complete lack of guilt. I also had reporting in the story on the victims whose bank accounts he had cleaned out and whose lives he had ruined.
Myron had already placed the story as a co-project with the Los Angeles Times, and that guaranteed it would be seen and the Los Angeles Police Department would have to take notice. King Arthur’s reign would soon be over and his round table of junior con men would be rounded up as well.
I read the story a final time and sent it to Myron, copying William Marchand, the attorney who reviewed all FairWarning stories pro bono. We didn’t put anything up on the website that was not legally bulletproof. FairWarning was a five-person operation if you counted the reporter in Washington, DC, who worked out of her home. One “wrong story” spawning a winning lawsuit or forced settlement would put us out of business, and then I’d be what I had been at least twice before in my career: a reporter with no place to go.
I got up from my cubby to tell Myron the story was finally in, but he was in his own cubicle talking on the phone, and I could tell as I approached that he was on a fundraising call. Myron was founder, editor, reporter, and chief fundraiser for FairWarning. It was an Internet news site with no paywall. There was a donate button at the bottom page of every story and sometimes at the top, but Myron was always looking for the great white whale that would sponsor us and turn us from beggars into choosers—at least for a while.
“There really is no entity doing what we’re doing—tough watchdog journalism for the consumer,” Myron told each prospective donor. “If you check out our site you’ll see many stories in the archives that take on powerful kingpin industries including auto, pharmaceutical, and wireless companies. And with the current administration’s philosophy of deregulation and limiting oversight, there is nobody out there looking out for the little guy. Look, I get it, there are donations you could make that might give you a more visible bang for your buck. Twenty-five dollars a month keeps a kid fed and clothed in Appalachia. I get that. It makes you feel good. But you donate to FairWarning, and what you are supporting is a team of reporters dedicated to—”
I heard “the pitch” several times a day, day in and day out. I also attended the Sunday salons where Myron and board members spoke to potential white-hat donors, and I mingled with them afterward, mentioning the stories I was working on. I had some extra cachet at these gatherings as the author of two bestselling books, though it was never mentioned that it had been more than ten years since I had published anything. I knew the pitch was important and vital to my own paycheck—not that I was getting anywhere close to a living wage for Los Angeles—but I had heard it so many times in my four years at FairWarning that I could recite it in my sleep. Backward.
Myron stopped to listen to his potential investor and muted the phone before looking up at me.
“You in?” he asked.
“Just sent it,” I said. “Also to Bill.”
“Okay, I’ll read it tonight and we can talk tomorrow if I have anything.”
"[A] fast-paced thriller, written by a master of the genre."―Christina Ianzito, AARP
"There is no better news than a new book from the great Michael Connelly... Fair Warning brings back reporter Jack McEvoy, a character I always liked every bit as Harry Bosch or Mickey Haller or Renee Ballard... Connelly [is] at the very top of his game."―Mike Lupica, New York Daily News
"A truly terrifying thriller... [Jack McEvoy] has appeared in only two previous novels, but they are two of Connelly's best: The Poet and The Scarecrow. McEvoy makes it three for three with this riveting tale."―Bill Ott, Booklist (starred review)
"Intruiging... Throughout his outstanding thrillers, Michael Connelly has expertly weaved contemporary issues into solid plots... Connelly also has achieved this in his novels about journalist Jack McEvoy, who makes his third most welcome appearance in Fair Warning."―Oline H. Cogdill, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
"Score another one for the dean of America's crime writers... Fair Warning sheds light on the murky billion-dollar world of DNA testing... the subject [is] ripe for a good mystery. And Michael Connelly is just the guy to write it."―Sandra Dallas, Denver Post
"Like all of Connelly's novels, Fair Warning is a satisfying adrenalin rush."―Colette Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times
"Darkly essential reading for every genre fan who's ever considered sending a swab to a mail-order DNA testing service."―Kirkus (starred review)
"A smart, propulsive thriller... Connelly excels in making investigative reporting as enthralling as any action scene. Fair Warning shines a spotlight on the shocking lack of government oversight in the field of DNA analysis and ancestry identification... Connelly spins a skin-crawling, cutting-edge mystery about the dangerous ways the data can be mined."―Shelf Awareness
- Publisher : Little, Brown and Company; First Edition (May 26, 2020)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 416 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0316539422
- ISBN-13 : 978-0316539425
- Item Weight : 1.39 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.7 x 1.65 x 9.7 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #58,885 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Later I saw he wrote this book because he believed a growing numbers of people simply do not believe or trust the media.
As I'm writing this, more and more is coming out as to the the extent of the people who kept the Russian hoax story alive through propaganda, lies, and the use of the intelligence community, the cabinet of the Obama Administration, Congress, the Mueller investigators, the FBI, the FISA court, and, of course, the media.
There was zero evidence and a Journalist 101 student's antenna should have gone up. Rep. Nunes said there were at least a 100 journalists in on it.
How does the nation get justice with this conspiracy? This plot to remove Trump. This plot to win the House. And, my god, how in the world can Connelly defend this? As Atty. General Barr recently said, it was abhorrent.
Well, I got a few more pages after the politics and put the book down. I'd love a refund now.
Quote: “What happens when the press becomes an interest group whose interest isn’t the truth?” - WSJ's Holman Jenkins in “Media Cowardice and the Collusion Hoax.”
Somehow, Jack McEvoy just irritates me. Maybe he is simply written in such a way as to tone him down a bit to avoid the appearance of his being some kind of super-reporter, but he lacks the sharpness of mind and the depth of moral conviction that drives Bosch, and the intrinsic courage that gets Harry through the battles with his dark side. And when Jack is coupled with Rachel Waller, as he is in Fair Warning, he always comes off as a bit of a stumbling, clueless side-kick to her kick-ass. I guess it is natural, if unfair, to compare all Michael Connelly's characters to Harry Bosch, but, even as a stand-alone I don't find enough to admire in Jack McEvoy to elevate his books to "extraordinary" in my estimation.
Having said all that, I did enjoy Fair Warning as a good bedtime read. The DNA angle was interesting, and Connelly's exhaustive research was evident, as always, in his command of the subject matter. I found myself cheating and picking up my kindle to return to Jack and Rachel during times I was supposed to be doing something else, because, well, it's Michael Connelly and it has his magic all over it.
Lastly, I have no respect for authors who sell you a book promising a fiction story for entertainment and then inject their politics into the book. It's a cheat on the reader. No matter what you do, you offend half the readers. I guess there is a point where you are famous and well off enough that you just don't care who you offend as long a you can put a boot in on some political figure that you don't like. In the case of this novel there were several comments taking cheap shots at the president. I won't be buying any more Connelly books because I can't be sure he won't be making more virtue signaling politics statements. It poisons the book for me. He probably won't miss me.
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On the other hand, the material never really caught my imagination and the characters, with the possible exception of the rather self-centred McEvoy, have little depth or interest. It is difficult to be held by events if the people involved are unable to excite any real sympathy or empathy. I found them disappointingly wooden. It may be that what Connelly has written here might translate to a cinema script more effectively, especially if good actors could flesh out the characters. I’m told that the Bosch series are much better, so I shall not give up on Connelly yet.
This book proved to be yet another instance of that failing. Having bought it on the day it was published, I had originally planned to leave it for a little while, thinking it would be nice to have something to look forward to. I genuinely intended to put it to one side for a while … and I did … for at least three hours after it was delivered. Then, however, temptation got the better of me (not a concept I have been unfamiliar with over the last fifty odd years) and I simply plunged in.
I do worry when an author I like brings out a new book – there is always the fear that the weight of expectation might prove too great, and the book won’t live up to them. After all, an author as prolific as Connelly might be expected to waver every now and again. Fortunately, however, he hasn’t wavered here.
The ageing Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch is given a rest (perhaps he is on furlough), and the protagonist this time around is the journalist, Jack McEvoy, I would be interested to know to what extent McEvoy is grounded on Connelly himself, as I know the author started out as a journalist covering the crime beat in L<os Angeles.
Jack McEvoy has appeared in a couple of novels before, and will be familiar to readers of [The Poet] and [The Scarecrow], in each of which his journalistic endeavours led to the recognition of active serial killers. This time around he is working for the Fair Warning website which conducts investigations into areas of consumer concern. Away from the main crime beat, he is brought into the case because a former acquaintance is found dead with unusual neck injuries. McEvoy is contacted by the police as a ‘person of interest’ and, true to form, manages to fall foul of the investigating detectives, which leads him to look into the case further on his own account.
As ever with Connelly, the plot is fast moving, but always underpinned with procedural viability and overall plausibility. McEvoy is far from perfect, and finds himself straying down some red herrings. He is, however, always open to advice and support, and finds himself ably assisted by his former partner Rachel Walling (one of my favourite characters from the so-called ‘Universe of Harry Bosch’) as well as one of his colleagues from the website
This is another welcome addition to the Connelly canon. My only regret now is that I read it too quickly, and will probably have to wait another year for the next one.