THE BUTCHER'S BOY by Thomas Perry


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The ""butcher's boy"" is the nickname of the nameless, professional hired-killer whom first-novelist Perry follows through about half of this sturdy, overlong crime novel; the book's other, alternating half focuses on Elizabeth Waring of the Justice Dept., who's closing in on the ""butcher's boy"" by analyzing patterns in murder cases. First the killer uses dynamite to dispose of a union-man in California who was about to expose pension-fund manipulations by Fieldston Growth Enterprises. Target #2: Senator McKinley Claremont (curare in his Polident), who was planning to investigate--among other corporations--FGE. So, by the time the killer arrives in Las Vegas to pick up his fee from a middle-man, Elizabeth has started to figure out the FGE connection. Then, however, things get complicated--and a bit grisly: the people who hired the butcher's boy (the mobsters behind FGE) kill that middle-man and clearly are out to kill the hit-man himself, thus wiping out all traces of the hired assassinations. But, while the Justice Dept: team centers its investigation on Las Vegas (running into trouble with leaks and informers), the butcher's boy racks up a few more corpses, attempts to go underground, is pursued by assassins, and finally decides that he must identify--and permanently neutralize--the Mr. Big who's after him. (He does this by killing Fieldston of FGE and arranging a frame-up by planting the corpse on Mr. Big's property.) Perry's back-and-forth focus, an occasional plus, often becomes tedious here; and though some aspects of the hit-man's lifestyle are convincingly sketched, both the butcher's boy and Elizabeth are too vaguely characterized to generate strong reader involvement. Still, for devotees of hit-man techniques and Justice Dept. procedures: a serviceable work-up, without the gratuitous gore often found in Mafia/hit-man fictions.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1982
ISBN: 0812967739
Publisher: Scribners