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Book Author: Thomas Perry

MURDER BOOK by Thomas Perry: Book Review

Once again, Thomas Perry proves that he is a master of his craft.  Murder Book is an outstanding thriller that is almost impossible to put down.

Harry Duncan, a former police detective who worked in various big cities throughout the country, now is using his talents as a private investigator.  Just finishing a case, he gets a call from Ellen Leicester, his ex-wife, a United States Attorney, asking him to meet her.  She tells him that she’d like to hire him to look into a spate of violent crimes–extortions, robberies, even murders–that have occurred in districts where such crimes usually do not happen.

She says that the Justice Department doesn’t think this is significant enough to warrant using their forces to investigate, but, as she has the power to hire an independent consultant, she asks Harry to look into the problem.  Although Harry is less than enthusiastic, he agrees to look into it.

Harry heads toward rural Indiana and finds himself in the town of Parkman’s Elbow on the Ash-Grey River.  He stops at a bar/restaurant and is just finishing his lunch when Renee, the owner, informs him that two men are checking out his car in the parking lot.  When Harry goes outside, he’s told by one of them that his car appears to have a fake inspection sticker, but for an on-the-spot payment of one thousand dollars the problem can be solved.

A second man walks up behind Harry, and before either of the two men can react Harry has them on the ground and handcuffed.  They don’t respond to his questions, so he drives them to the State Police and returns to the cafe where he had lunch and where the two men had attempted their extortion.  Renee confirms his former wife’s statement that there has been a rash of violence in the area, but she doesn’t seem overly concerned.

Then, later in the evening, he goes back to the Elbow Cafe for a third time, and that’s when the situation escalates.  In the midst of the dinner hour, three men enter the Cafe and demand protection money from Renee.  When she refuses, later that evening they attempt to burn down her house.  When Harry stymies that plan and has them arrested, the three men, the Clark brothers, are put in the local jail but are released on bail the following day.  Sadly for them, that proves to be a mistake; within minutes of their release, all three are murdered.

Murder Book is a hard-boiled thriller, with a body count that mounts page by page.   I was in awe of the many inventive ways Duncan manages to thwart the potential killers, with each event confirming his former wife’s contention that there’s a major crime operation going on, although the final motive of the gangsters is not clear until the end of the novel.

Thomas Perry’s first novel, The Butcher’s Boy, won the 1983 Edgar for Best First Novel.  Perry also received the 2003 Gumshoe Award for Pursuit for Best Novel, the 2012 Barry award for Informant and and the 2021 Barry award for Eddie’s Boy, the last two in the Best Thriller category.  He is also the author of the Jane Whitefield series featuring an Indigenous woman who helps people disappear.

You can read more about the author at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

THE LEFT-HANDED TWIN by Thomas Perry: Book Review

According to the beliefs of the Iroquois Nation, the Good Spirit and the Evil Spirit are twin brothers, and the Evil Spirit is responsible for all the bad things on earth.  So it seems reasonable that the Evil Spirit, the left-handed twin, is the cause of the death and destruction in Thomas Perry’s new Jane Whitefield thriller.

Sara Doughton had led a carefree life in Los Angeles, following her boyfriend Albert McKeith from glitzy party to glitzy party, hobnobbing with celebrities and wannabees night after night.  But after four years with Albert she made a very serious mistake–she slept with another man.  When Albert found out, he killed the man, forcing Sara to watch.

Both are arrested, with Sara promised immunity if she testifies at his trial.  She does, but the jury finds him innocent, and on the advice of her lawyer Sara flees California and finds Jane Whitefield, a “guide” who helps people disappear.  Now Albert’s goal is to locate Sara and kill her, but for this he needs help.

What neither Sara nor Jane knows is that Albert is in touch with Oleg Porchen, a Russian gangster who has his own reasons for helping Albert.  He’s not much interested in finding Sara, but he is interested, very interested, in locating the woman who has helped her escape.  As Porchen tells Albert, referring to Sara, “She is worth nothing, except that the woman she got to help her escape is worth a great deal.”  

So Albert, an associate of Porchen’s named Magda, and various Russian gang members follow the twisted path on which Jane leads them.  Albert’s goal is to find Sara and kill her, but the Russian gang intends to find Jane and bring her to Porchen, who has his own plans for her.

The Left-Handed Twin is the ninth Jane Whitefield novel.  She is a member of the Seneca tribe and has been “guiding” people to new lives since her college days.  The combination of the Native American skills she has learned from her ancestors and her knowledge of technology work together to help her find new identities for those who come to her.

One of the abilities outstanding mystery authors have is to keep their audiences reading until the last page, even though they are aware that the hero/heroine will prevail.  Thomas Perry does this skillfully in this series by showing how Jane’s abilities in many areas keep her and the people who come to her safe.  The chapters in which Jane is being followed on the northernmost portion of the Appalachian Trail by four members of Porchen’s gang are spellbinding.

Thomas Perry, in addition to the books in this series, is the author of the Butcher’s Boy series and more than a dozen stand-alones.  He has received an Edgar Award, a Gumshoe Award, and two Barry Awards for his mysteries.  You can read more about him at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

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.