BIG FISH by Thomas Perry


Email this review


As made clear in a bright series of introductory vignettes, middle-aged Altmeyer (no first name) and beautiful young wife Rachel are the Nick and Nora Charles of gun-smuggling--trading cool-to-cutesy quips as they deliver AR-15 carbines to a survivalist gun-nut in Oregon, helping their neighbor Bucky (a veteran Hollywood agent) to escape from murderous cocaine-dealers (several breezy fatalities ensue), arranging for a massive shipment of counterfeit Browning pistols to Japan via Mexico. But even Altmeyer's epic sang-froid will be sorely tested when, on the day the guns sail off to Tokyo, the plan goes awry a bit: someone--whom Altmeyer handily kills--tries to blow up the smugglers with a nasty bomb. Why? To avoid paying for the guns? Another reason? The Altmeyers, sidekick Bucky in tow, decide to find out with a trip to Japan. (""It's nearly two million dollars. . . It's probably worth going over to ask."") And, after tracking down their cargo on a Tokyo loading dock, they engage in another shootout--and make an unsettling discovery: someone has used the gun-smuggling route to smuggle something else into Japan--something radioactive! Could it really be that a Japan-based electronics company has secretly gone into the nuclear-bomb biz as a commercial enterprise? Yes it could. So, now joined by legendary film-director Arthur Paston, the good guys set out to uncover and eliminate this international conspiracy--which has a laboratory in London, plans for A-bomb tests in Antarctica. . . and investor-masterminds (some greedy gynecologists) over in Santa Barbara. Perry (Butcher's Boy, Metzger's Dog) strains credibility with more than a few of the whimsical, blackcomic details here. More seriously troubling is the portrait of this jolly, genial foursome as roving vigilantes--especially when the fair-fight shootouts slide over into downright executions. (Altmeyer himself, though ever-self-deprecating, is clearly intended as a Robin Hood/Galahad hero--despite all that amoral gun-running.) But the fast pace, the inventive violence, and the assured rat-a-tat-tat of one-liners makes this a standout nonetheless in the comic-thriller genre--likely to please fans of Elmore Leonard and Ross Thomas as well as those who've relished Perry's previous grim/giddy confections.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1985
Publisher: Scribners