Book Review – Fair Warning by Michael Connelly
My Rating – 4 out of 5
Plot Summary – Fair Warning
Michael Connelly, to my delight, is a breath of fresh air in the world of crime thriller writers, only because his background as a crime journalist, working the police beat, puts him bang in the middle of procedural investigations. It does not read like a research paper but more like if you were being carried around in the back of a police cruiser, observing their investigation from close quarters.
This is the 4th protagonist in Michael Connelly‘s portfolio – Harry Bosch, Micky Haller, Renée Ballard, and Jack McEvoy. Jack is a reporter, now working for a Consumer Rights website called Fair Warning (the website and its purpose is real, by the way). He has nothing to do with crime, or so he thinks.
One night, on his way back from work, he’s accosted by two LAPD detectives, asking for his whereabouts a few days back. A middle-aged woman was murdered at her home, her neck violently broken. Jack had a chance encounter with her one year ago, and no contact thereafter. So why were the detectives after him? They take Jack’s DNA sample and leave, it’ll either clear him or find him guilty. But Jack is perplexed, why him and since he had fond memories of the woman (Christina Portrero) he decides to look into the circumstances leading to her death.
As he delves deeper, speaking to her friend and mother, he finds that Tina had submitted her DNA to a website called GT23 for a match and search, and had found a half-sister! Jack also puts out a message to all LA Coroners and Medical Examiners, on their message board, asking about the manner of death. Curiously, he gets information about 4 other deaths in the past 3-4 years where younger women have died under suspicious circumstances ( some look like accidents or suicide) where the neck has been broken similarly as Tina’s!
Jack is now in full-fledged investigator mode, tying up first with Emily Atwater (his reporter colleague at Fair Warning) and Rachel Walling (his ex-flame and an ex FBI agent who lost her job because of Jack) What discover as they go along is that the DNA research industry is unregulated and despite being under FDA, it is not monitored. The DNA’s submitted to GT23 are sold to other parties (supposedly anonymized) but no one monitors the buyers or the end-use of the DNA. For what happens after? Read the book to find out!
Conclusion – Book Review of Fair Warning
It sets off an intriguing premise, DNA matching to find lost relatives and family, but the lack of regulation and overseeing, leads one to dangerous levels of a privacy breach. Who buys the DNA and what do they use it for? Can it be used to exonerate a guilty man too? This is where an ethical question is raised, as to how far can genetic research go – if used only for treating genetic diseases and other benevolent purposes. It may be alright for that but it opens up a whole new nefarious avenue for those with malicious intent.
Though at times it gets a little long in the narrative, trying to explain the nitty gritties of DNA research, it’s still a breezy read and fun all along. For crime thriller and police procedural fans, a must-read!