Fair Warning by Michael Connelly: A review

Michael Connelly employs the same writing technique he has used so successfully in his police procedurals, private detective mysteries, and "Lincoln lawyer" stories in his latest book featuring investigative journalist Jack McEvoy. We follow the reporter step by step as he works to cover a complicated story involving the misuse of DNA data and a possible serial killer. McEvoy has investigated and helped to take down a couple of serial killers in the past, so one might say this is his wheelhouse. He has written a couple of popular books about his experiences with those cases, but he's now employed as a reporter for a website called Fair Warning that champions consumer rights so he first approaches his story as it pertains to the violation of consumer rights.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The story begins when McEvoy is visited by two detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department who are investigating the murder of a woman named Tina Portrero. Portrero is someone whom McEvoy had had a one-night stand with several months earlier, but he had had no further contact with her and hadn't seen her since. The method by which the woman was killed was surprising; her neck had been twisted so hard that her spine was severed, a method called Atlanto-Occipital Dislocation (AOD). As McEvoy researches that technique, he finds other cases of women across the country who have been killed in this way and he begins to wonder if he may have another serial killer in his sights.

His initial problem is to figure out what those women might have had in common that could have brought them to the attention of their killer. He finds that connection in a DNA testing company called GT23. He learns that the company had openly sold the DNA analysis of some of their clients, ostensibly anonymously, to different entities for "research purposes." But the anonymity of their clients was not 100% guaranteed and it appears that a clever hacker was able to identify the DNA donors and pull out those with genes that indicated a propensity for "risky behavior." And thus McEvoy has his hook for a story about abuse of consumer rights.

To help him find the information he needs, McEvoy reaches out to a former FBI agent who he has worked with in the past and with whom he had once had a romantic relationship. Her name is Rachel Walling and she has featured in several Connelly books. After her last interaction with McEvoy, she had lost the job that she loved and was so good at with the FBI. These days she is a private investigator, but McEvoy needs her skills as a profiler to help him find a murderer. The two start working together and soon the romantic spark is reignited, but we can sense that McEvoy is going to sabotage it as he has before. 

As McEvoy and a female reporter from Fair Warning, along with Rachel Walling, begin following their leads, they find a cesspool of misogyny in the tech world, most starkly exemplified by the hateful Incel groups that cyberstalk and harass women, denigrating and abusing them online and sometimes acting out violently toward women in the real world. If such groups were able to identify women who might be vulnerable to their attacks through analysis of the women's DNA, they would have a virtually unlimited source of victims for their bullying. And that, the investigators find to their horror, seems to be just what has happened.

Connelly is at his best in delineating intricate plots and leading the reader along with a riveting storyline to a satisfying conclusion. He hasn't lost his touch. I was completely invested in this story right from the beginning, and, though I am far from a tech genius, I had no difficulty following along with his explanations of how things played out in this complex story. Perhaps we will be getting more investigative reporter procedurals from the master in the future and that could be a very good thing.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars   


  1. My husband just finished this one and learned interesting, formerly unknown to him facts about DNA as it is used to solve crimes, such as that it remains even after blood has been cleaned away on surfaces.

    1. The book was full of interesting information about the gathering and uses of DNA.

  2. I agree that Connelly is a good writer. I would like to read more of his novels.

    1. I've long been a fan of his Bosch series and this one seems like it might be a winner, too.


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