Bob Moyer knows a good mystery/thriller when he reads it. He says Thomas Perry is in fine form with this new one.
THE MURDER BOOK. By Thomas Perry. Mysterious Press. 394 pages. $27.95.
Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer
If you’ve read a Thomas Perry novel before, or if you’ve seen the Netflix adaptation of The Old Man, this format will be familiar. An individual with a certain set of skills is attacked for something they saw or did. The individual repels the attack. The attacks continue, however, increasing in number and intensity. Sooner or later, the hunted individual becomes the hunter, and ultimately does in the bad guys. The narrative has never failed the author; it doesn’t fail him here.
Ex-cop Harry Duncan is hired by a U.S. attorney general (his ex-wife) to do a non-official investigation of what might or might not be a crime wave in Indiana — but as a non-employee, since it’s not really an investigation. It seems that a surge in crimes by thugs from Chicago has happened in a number of small towns. Harry sets out to document the scene, making a Murder Book like he did for crimes when he was a real officer of the law.
He has barely been in the first small town for the length of a beer when two thugs try to boost him out of his car. Little do they know whom they are dealing with, and what kind of modified car he has. He transports them quickly back to Indianapolis, and returns to the local hangout only to find more thugs waiting for him. And so it goes for quite some time, with every move by the bad guys thwarted by Harry’s ingenuity, which involves everything from superglued guns to chain-wrapped axles. Perry has tapped into an ancient theme with his heroes, the trickster who can’t be defeated — Roadrunner with a gun. As the crooks keep coming, Harry has to finally marshal enough forces to take them out, borrowing a page from Akira Kurosawa.
Taking out the foot soldiers doesn’t solve the problem, however. Murder Book is a little longer than the average Perry tome, because Harry has to take out the commanding officers of the crime syndicate. It takes him a little time and a lot of tricks, but he tracks them down. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t have any peace — or downtime with that redhead from the bar.