DEATH BENEFITS by Thomas Perry


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Perry, who never met a field he couldn’t make breathlessly exciting, turns his hand to the insurance business, with hair-raising results.

A week after a security consultant named Max Stillman has arrived in San Francisco, huddled with the head of McClaren Life and Casualty, and hunkered down to ask a lot of questions, he abruptly sweeps junior analyst John Walker onto an airliner bound for Los Angeles and into a $12 million insurance investigation. It seems that the Alan Werfel who showed up to claim the proceeds from his wealthy father’s life insurance policy was a fake, and Stillman’s been hired to find out whether Ellen Snyder, the Pasadena assistant manager whose name is on all the paperwork, was the fraud’s accomplice. But first Stillman and Walker have to find Ellen Snyder, formerly Walker’s girlfriend and now missing in action. Has she vanished with a ten percent share of the proceeds, or been set up as the patsy and killed? Directing Walker with dizzying swiftness, Stillman plunges him into a world of freelance skip-tracers and illegal hackers, and a deep-laid plot whose audacity leaves Walker gaping. Readers will be just as open-mouthed watching Perry (Blood Money, 2000, etc.) springing so many surprises that it’s impossible to tell from chapter to chapter—sometimes from line to line—what’s around the next corner. The trail takes Stillman and Walker from Chicago to Miami to an inoffensive little New Hampshire town where the pot finally boils over, mercifully telegraphing plot twists to readers who by now will be only too glad to resume normal breathing.

For most of the running time, though, Perry displays a matchless gift for keeping both his hero and his readers beautifully off-balance. Don’t dare let anybody tell you any more about the story before you start it—preferably in time to swallow it all in a sitting.

Pub Date: Jan. 19th, 2000
ISBN: 0-679-45305-9
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2000


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