For years I touted THE POET as a great Michael Connelly standalone. Then, 13 years later in 2009 came THE SCARECROW. Jack McEvoy was back. With the arrival of FAIR WARNING we have the official Jack McEvoy series and the end of the novel suggests that there will be more (probably with Jack and a love-interest partner).
The subject: DNA testing and the manner in which it can be abused. A lurker on the dark web known as The Shrike kills his victims as the bird does—by viciously breaking their necks. As luck would have it, Jack McEvoy once dated one of The Shrike's victims and is thus investigated by the LAPD. He is now working for a website called Fair Warning (which actually exists) that studies consumer threats and utilizes investigative journalism to warn the public. Working with a colleague at Fair Warning (and, eventually, with a former love who once worked for the FBI), Jack investigates the manner in which a discount DNA service keeps its prices low by selling samples to other labs. Once able to hack into the mother ship's records an unscrupulous smaller service can locate genetic markers for risky sexual behaviors and sell the identities of the women possessing those markers to predators. Think of it as a dating service for monsters.
The book is enormously successful for several reasons. First and foremost we learn something—the potential dark side of DNA labs and the scientific possibility of locating markers for particular behaviors and utilizing it for sleazy gain. Second, MC is a master at the general procedures of journalistic investigation because he was an L.A. crime reporter for years. He knows the methods and he knows the city like the back of his hand. He plots with great skill, develops interesting characters and nails the setting. Plus, I say again, we learn something when we read him. This is why he makes millions of dollars and earns every penny.
All of his books are of high quality so it is pointless to try to rank them. FAIR WARNING is certainly up to his general high standards; fans will devour it and have a great deal of difficulty putting it down and accomplishing the necessary chores and responsibilities of their lives.
A tiny quibble: Jack McEvoy works with the 'assistant sac', i.e. the assistant special agent in charge of the L.A. FBI office. I believe that the L.A. office is run by an assistant director, not a sac (as in smaller offices). There are then sac's for different divisions at the HQ, so Jack could be working with one of their assistants, but the division is not identified. As I say, a tiny quibble; MC is generally scrupulous with regard to such details.
A second tiny issue: MC draws some reviewer fire for an aside to the effect that the journalistic profession is now under unfair attack by the president. This arises twice, as I recall, and Jack is speaking for himself (and not, by narrative theory, necessarily for MC). Still, the reviewers do not like politicization. I am with them on that score, but I would add that this is not a major distraction in any way and that if all members of the contemporary media conducted themselves with the professionalism that Jack does we would not have a problem in the first place.