Saturday, June 23, 2007

Thriller, Anyone? Visit Thomas Perry

From time to time, I've written about a favorite author. Since I'm deep in the middle of one of those favorite authors' newest books, I'm going to do a quick review here and get back to finishing the novel.

Thomas Perry is an American author who won an Edgar Mystery Writers Award for Best First Novel in 1983 for his debut book The Butcher's Boy. In the quarter of a century since, he has written thirteen more novels.

I did not discover Perry until 1995 when I read Vanishing Act. The heroine of Vanishing Act is a half-white, half-Indian member of the Seneca tribe in upstate New York. Jane Whitefield specializes in helping people disappear. Fearful people come to her, looking for new identities and new lives.

Like many of my favorite characters in fiction, Whitefield is a moral person who operates outside of society's laws. In Vanishing Act, she helps a battered woman wanting to escape her abusive husband, a gambler who witnessed a gangland shooting and a young boy seeking to avoid a bitter custody battle.

But the real focus of Vanishing Act is the man John Felker, who claims to be an ex-cop with a contract out on his life. Whitefield finds herself deeply attracted to her new client, which clouds her judgment of him.

The book was a suspenseful thriller and became the first of the popular Jane Whitefield series. Perry wrote about Whitefield five times--once a year from 1995 to 1999. On his website, he says the following:

I am often asked whether there will be more books about Jane Whitefield. The answer is that I do intend to write about Jane again, but at the moment the next installment in the series is not what I’m working on. I like to think of Jane as alive and well, living off-camera in Deganawida, New York, waiting for me to bring her next client to her door. I’m enjoying writing stories about other characters at the moment, but I will pick up her story at some point when I feel that I have something new say about her.

After I read Vanishing Act, I went back to read Perry's earlier books. My hands down favorite is his first, The Butcher's Boy.

The Butcher's Boy is a paid assassin, an expert at his chosen field. He completes an assignment to kill a politician and heads to Las Vegas to pick up his fee. His employer tries to doublecross the Butcher's Boy--not the best decision. Perry describes the action this way: "While he works his way across the country attempting to survive and avenge the betrayal, a number of people in police agencies notice that something big is going on, and try--with incomplete and late information--to construct coherent interpretations of the violence. Only one, a Justice Department employee named Elizabeth Waring, comes close."

The Butcher's Boy is a terrific read, and I was thrilled to learn that Perry went back to reprise some of the characters in his 1992 novel Sleeping Dogs.

On Thursday, The New York Times did a review here on Perry's latest novel, Silence. I picked the novel up at B&N at 8:00 PM last night and am about halfway through as I write this just before 1:00 PM on Saturday afternoon.

Silence is interesting--a blend of characters that might appear in either The Butcher's Boy or Vanishing Act. Jack Till, an ex-cop who now works as a private detective, once taught a woman how to disappear from her high profile life. Now, six years later, her ex-lover is charged with her murder. Till tries unsuccessfully to convince the authorities that Wendy Harper is not dead. Feeling the burden of guilt for an innocent man charged with a crime that never happened, Till sets out to find Harper.

Unfortunately, Till is not the only one looking for Wendy. A pair of hired killers, Sylvie and her lover Paul, are also trying to complete a contract for a hit that their predecessor failed to fulfill.

I can highly recommend Thomas Perry although I'm partial to The Butcher's Boy novels or the Whitefield series. If you like suspenseful thrillers, try the book I'm reading now--Silence--or find one of the earlier novels. You'll thank me.

Off to finish my book. Have a good day.

1 comment:

David Roth said...

I'm always on the outlook for a good read. Thanks - I'll look these up.