Friday, June 25, 2010

Currently listening: THE SCARECROW

I'm trying something new this week - an audio book. I haven't 'read' an audio book since I was a child, with the Storytime books, which were tapes and picture book sets of stories like Rumplestiltskin and others (each book had several stories in it). I still remember listening to a resonant voice reading Oliphaunt by JRR Tolkien, and intoning "Grey as a mouse, Big as a house, Nose like a snake, I make the earth shake", and finishing with "Old Oliphaunt am I, And I never lie".

When I was in the local library the other day, I noticed that they also had audio books for borrowing, including several crime/thriller titles, so I thought I'd try one. After all, I spend a fair bit of time listening to music via headphones when I'm exercising, or writing reviews or various stories etc - so perhaps I could use some of this time to listen to books as well. For my first audio book, I chose an unabridged version of Michael Connelly's THE SCARECROW, one of his only books over the past several years that I haven't yet read - but had been meaning to, for a while.

THE SCARECROW brings back Jack McEvoy, the reporter from THE POET (which was the book that introduced and got me hooked on Connelly, many years ago). More than a decade after the events of THE POET, McEvoy is coming to the end of the line as a crime reporter for the LA Times. He's been laid off, and only has a few days left on the job, while he trains his replacement, an ambitious, attractive, digitally-savvy young female just out of journalism school.

But McEvoy has other plans for his exit. He is going to go out with a bang, writing a final story that could win a Pulitzer prize. He focuses on Alonzo Winslow, a 16-year-old drug dealer from the projects who has apparently confessed to police that he brutally raped and strangled one of his crack clients. McEvoy convinces Alonzo's mother to cooperate with his investigation into the possibility of her son's innocence. But she has fallen for the oldest reporter's trick in the book - his real intention is to use that access to report and write a story that explains how societal dysfunction and neglect created a 16-year-old killer.

But as McEvoy delves into the story he soon realizes that Alonzo's so-called confession is bogus, and he is soon off and running on the biggest story he's had since The Poet crossed his path years before. He reunites with FBI Agent Rachel Walling to go after a killer who has worked completely below police and FBI radar, and with perfect knowledge of any move against him. What McEvoy doesn't know is that his investigation has inadvertently set off a digital tripwire. The killer knows McEvoy is coming, and he's ready.

I'm currently on Disc 5 of 10 - the full audio book is about 11 hours in length. It's read by actor Peter Giles. At first it was a little strange listening to a book, and I was worried I might miss things that I wouldn't if I was reading. But I've now got used to it, and am really enjoying Giles' reading of THE SCARECROW.

You can read an excerpt from THE SCARECROW here, and read a good interview with Michael Connelly about bringing back McEvoy many years after THE POET, and the unfortunate decline of newspaper journalism (a theme throughout the book) here.

Have you 'read' an audio book? Do you like listening to crime or thriller novels, as well as reading them? Does the reader/speaker of the audio book make a big difference to your enjoyment? Do you have favourite 'readers'? What are some of your favourite, or least favourite audio books?


  1. Craig - It's good to hear you're enjoying The Scarecrow. I'm glad the change of format hasn't been a problem for you. I'll be interested to read your response when you've finished it.

    I don't listen to a lot of audio books, chiefly because of the way my schedule is, but I do respect the format, especially for those who can't read in the traditional way, or whose schedules work best with an audio format.

  2. Oh yes Craig I love listening to audio books and these days about a third of my reading is done this way - I simply don't have enough time to read in print everything I want to read. I really don't care if other people think it's not real reading, it works for me.

    The reader does make a difference, though I've found very few poor narrators. Most books professionally produced in audio format use proper actors and they generally know what they're doing. A very few over act but they are in the minority (though I have to say I am listening to one right now which falls into this category, sadly it's quite a good Ngaio Marsh book but the narrator has made all the voices a bit like they're characters in a Monty Python sketch).

    My absolute favourite narrator is Stephen Fry (I have him reading Douglas Adams' Hitchikers Guide books and listened to him reading the Harry Potter books with my niece) but for crime I enjoy Jonathan Keeble (who does the Reginald Hill books), Jeff Woodman and Steven Pacey. I have loads of favourite crime fiction audio books but one of the best would be Tom Rob Smith's Child 44 read by Stephen Pacey.

    If you ever want a guest reviewer of an audio book let me know :)

  3. Hello Craig-I wonder if you might want to occasionally contribute reviews of "forgotten" books to my blog project. We do them every Friday at
    If this holds any interest for you, please contact me. We would love to have your perspective on books.

  4. I have never read an audio book. It's not something I have the right kind of time to do. May be I should take up exercise so I can listen to them! (Oops, injured myself there rolling all over the floor, laughing)