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Book Author: Thomas Perry

A STRING OF BEADS by Thomas Perry: Book Review

I had a habit when I was a child–if a book was too suspenseful, I would turn to the last page to see how it ended.  Reading A String of Beads brought back that memory because I had to stop myself from doing it again.  Thomas Perry knows how to write a novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

Jane Whitefield, born of a white mother and a Seneca Indian father, is now a doctor’s wife, ostensibly living a quiet life as a volunteer teacher of the Seneca language and a fund-raiser for her husband’s hospital in New York State.  But all of her adult life she has had a secret–she helps innocent people who are in danger leave their current lives and begin again with new names, new jobs, new habits.  She’s best described as a guide to a new life.  When she married Dr. Carey McKinnon she promised to give up that part of her life, but she keeps being drawn back into it when she knows someone is in danger.

In A String of Beads, Jane is approached by the eight clan mothers of the various branches of her tribe.  Jane’s activities have been known to the mothers for some time, they tell her, but there hasn’t been a reason until this moment for them to ask for her help.  The string of beads in the title is called by the Senecas ote-ko-a.  The giving of the ote-ko-a symbolizes the mothers’ request for Jane to find one of their tribe members; her acceptance of the beads is her agreement to do so.  

Jimmy Sanders, a childhood friend of Jane’s, is being sought by the police as a suspect in a murder.  All the mothers agree with Jane that Jimmy could never have killed a man, but foolishly he has run away, and they are asking Jane to find him.  She sets out the following morning to retrace the trip that she and Jimmy took when they were teenagers, thinking that in his desire to evade the police he may have have gone back to that familiar trail; in fact she finds him there.

However, the police aren’t the only ones searching for Jimmy, and in fact they aren’t the most dangerous ones.  The man who is the murderer and who set Jimmy up for the crime is anxious for Jimmy to be found and jailed, or else simply killed.  The question before Jane and Jimmy is why has someone gone to so much trouble to incriminate him.   

A String of Beads is the eighth Jane Whitefield novel.  As with all series mysteries, we know that the protagonist will survive, but the author must make us care that she does so.  With Jane, the reader is in awe of her cleverness and determination to protect her charge from whomever is trying to kill him.  In this book, the childhood that Jane and Jimmy shared makes her even more determined to keep him safe and find out who is behind the murder and why Jimmy was chosen to be the “fall guy.”

Thomas Perry will keep you turning the pages ever more quickly with his inspiring heroine and brilliant plot.  This is another terrific mystery from the author.  He never disappoints.

You can read more about Thomas Perry at this web site

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site. 

 

 

 

 

THE BUTCHER’S BOY and THE INFORMANT by Thomas Perry: Book Review

It’s not exactly two for the price of one, but it is two books that should be read consecutively.

The Butcher’s Boy won the Edgar in 1983 for Best First Novel, a wise decision on the part of the judges. Now, in his nineteenth novel, Thomas Perry finishes the story of the Butcher’s Boy, whose true name we never learn, and Elizabeth Waring, an attorney and researcher with the Department of Justice.

The Butcher’s Boy has been killing people since he was sixteen, under the tutelage of The Butcher, real name Eddie Mastrewski.  The Boy had been orphaned with no close relatives to take him in, so Mastrewski, a neighbor, unofficially adopted him and taught him two trades.  One was Mastrewski’s official trade, that of a butcher who owned his own shop, and the other a paid assassin for the Mafia.  The second one was more monetarily rewarding.

After blowing up the truck of a labor union man who is suspicious of the way his union’s pension fund is being handled, the B.B. is on his way to murder a U.S. senator when he is set upon by two muggers in a dark alley. He kills them both and then successfully kills the senator, completing the job he was hired for, but his face shows bruises and cuts made by the muggers.  That apparently sets off a wave of concern at the higher levels of the Mafia that he may be attracting too much attention, and a contract is put out on the B.B.

Elizabeth Waring, who has a desk job at the Department of Justice, is the only person there who begins to see a pattern in a number of suspicious death notices that pass through her desk every day. She sets off to investigate the labor union official’s death but is pulled off that job before she can accomplish anything.  She’s sent to investigate the death of the senator, which she originally resents, but then she comes to believe there is a connection between the two deaths.  But she’s the only one.

In The Informant, ten years have passed since we last saw the B.B. and Elizabeth Waring. It’s not giving away the ending of The Butcher’s Boy to say he wasn’t captured–if he had been, there would have been no Informant. The B.B., who is now calling himself Michael Schaeffer, has been living a quiet life in England when he’s spotted by two killers who are sent by the Mafia to assassinate the B.B. and his wife.  He decides he has to return to the States and take out the men who ordered his death.

Schaeffer’s killing of the first man sets off a Mafia meeting in Phoenix, where the second man he wants to kill is asking his fellow Cosa Nostra bosses to band together to kill the B.B. He gets the agreement he wants but is killed within an hour by Schaeffer.  When his body is discovered, the other bosses are even more determined in their quest to eliminate the B.B. from their lives once and for all.

In the meantime, Elizabeth Waring is fighting a losing battle with her supervisor to follow the clues leading to the B.B.  Frustrated, she decides to act first and ask permission later, certain that she can find the B.B. and get him to turn informer because she believes he won’t be able to outrun the Mob.

These two books are fascinating journeys into the lives and minds of two very different people. The chapters alternate between the Butcher’s Boy and Waring, and following their thoughts and plans makes for exciting reading.  And the ending of The Informant ties everything together believably.

You can read more about Thomas Perry at his web site.