Finally, a tale that answers the unwelcome question: Is it possible for suspense master Perry (Nightlife, 2006, etc.) to write a routine thriller?
Following the suspicious disappearance of one of restaurateur Wendy Harper’s waitresses six years ago, a brush with an assailant’s baseball bat persuaded her that it was time to do some disappearing of her own. Now recently discovered evidence has implicated her ex-partner/ex-fiancé Eric Fuller in her murder, and the only way to clear him is to get her to come forward. It’s obvious to everyone but the LAPD and the prosecutor that the evidence is a plant specifically designed to flush her out of hiding. But Jack Till, the ex-cop private eye who helped her vanish, feels he has no choice but to hunt her down and bring her back. So far so breathless, and Perry’s first set piece, which brings husband-and-wife hit team Paul and Sylvie Turner to Las Vegas in search of their target, is a beaut. But then things start to go wrong—not for Jack or Wendy, but for readers in search of thrills. The assassins waste their energy in conjugal spats (“Let’s kill them now and rent a room”). Perry, whose control of pace is usually unequaled, begins to clutter the story with so many flashbacks providing unnecessary information about his leads that you wonder if you’re going to hear about the car-rental agent’s childhood. As both Jack and the killers close in on Wendy, the suspense wanes instead of building. After spending half his story ignoring the question of why someone still wants Wendy dead after six years, the obliging author crosses every T of the mastermind’s identity and motivation, utterly demystifying him in the process. As they approach the finish line, the killers are more bedeviled than the heroes.
Wait till next year, when the normally reliable Perry is bound to come up trumps again.