Mysteries: Thomas Perry’s latest hits on Info Age theme

smacknee@mcclatchy.comMarch 9, 2013 

The Boyfriend, Thomas Perry. Mysterious Press. 304 pages. If you follow this column, you know I adore Thomas Perry. His Jane Whitefield series about a Seneca woman who takes people “out of the world” is a fascinating discourse on how to disappear in the information age, and as someone once characterized his early books, irresistible “literary crack.”

“The Boyfriend” is also about staying invisible. A hit man has found a way to spend time in his target’s city without leaving traces. He seduces and then moves in with high-priced call girls, then kills them as he’s leaving town, so no one knows he was ever there. Returning character Jack Till, a retired detective, discovers the pattern and stalks the killer.

There’s plenty of Perry’s trademark stealthcraft as the two men close in on their climactic faceoff. But I have to confess that I less than adored “The Boyfriend” in the parts where Perry lovingly expounds on the details of the sex trade, as he did in his recent standalone “Strip,” for which I presume he visited lots of strip clubs in the name of research.

It particularly grates when he has a hot twentysomething clearly observing the world from the point of view of a cranky geezer.

Still love the guy, but could we go back to subject matter that doesn’t rate the subtitle “Fantasies of an Old Lech”?

Pray For a Brave Heart, Above Suspicion, Assignment in Brittany, Helen MacInnes. Titan Books. These paperback reissues of the mid-20th-century spy tales are a retro treat, written in a time when a woman could wear a fetching new hat with a red rose on it and expect to blend into the crowd, and the word “phone” was still written with an apostrophe to show it was an abbreviation for “telephone.”

MacInnes’ winning formula was to throw amateurs into the world of espionage, with lots of gorgeous European scenery.

The Leviathan Effect, James Lilliefors. Soho Crime. 352 pages. Here’s a treat for my fellow weather junkies: a thriller that takes the “Day After Tomorrow” concept of accelerated weather disasters a bit further. What if bad guys could control the weather and try to blackmail governments with it?

James Lilliefors’ characters are straight out of Central Casting and his dialogue is superficial, but he gets good marks for an intriguing story idea.

Six Years, Harlan Coben. Dutton. 351 pages. “Six Years” is the time between the wedding where a heartbroken college professor watches his true love marry another man and the day he sees that man’s obituary and starts looking for his long-lost love.

Things start to get interesting when she is not the widow at the funeral, and even more interesting when he can find no trace of her anywhere.

The pace is almost conversational, and the professor’s voice satisfyingly authentic as Harlan Coben pulls off his patented hat trick of putting one word after another in a way that keeps you looking for that next word until it’s way past your bedtime.

Macknee: smacknee@mcclatchy.com

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