Bad guys, beware

Bob Moyer invites us to follow the Hawk as she pursues her prey – and is pursued.

Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer

A SMALL TOWN. By Thomas Perry. Mysterious Press. 320 pages. $26.

The opening pages of this book might just be the most painful Thomas Perry has ever penned.  A gang of prisoners kills the guards of a prison outside A Small Town, takes their clothes and cars, heads for town, and rapes and kills the families.  They leave the gates open, and more than 1,200 prisoners with mayhem and murder on their minds flood the town.  The town is devastated.

Two years later, the 12 leaders have not been caught. The town’s population is dwindling, and more than 80 percent of the population is planning to leave, or think that they should.  The police chief decides to take a year off to “study police procedures” around the country with access to federal monies for research.  In other words, she heads off to kill the men who killed her town.

And that’s when the usual “fun” in a Perry novel starts.  His protagonist, whether chased or chasing, always ends up standing at the end of the novel.  The bad guys don’t.  Chief Leah Hawkins, known as “Hawk” for her basketball prowess, uses all her skill to track the prisoners down, and take them out.

Perry uses all his skill to keep us engaged.  A master of plot, even when the reader knows what is going to happen, Perry produces devious killings that that no one could possibly imagine but him.  When the body count piles up, the prisoners catch on, and come after the Hawk.  As happens frequently in a Perry adventure, she becomes chased as well as chaser, adding to the suspense.  While Perry speeds up the action, he maintains a deliberate pace to the slow reveal of how the prison break happened. Headed toward a violent climax, the narrative catches us up in the momentum.  Chief Hawkins overcomes, of course, and A Small Town, somewhere in the Midwest, gets a new life.  

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