SLEEPING DOGS by Thomas Perry


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 Since his Edgar-winning debut with Butcher's Boy (1982), Perry has inked a series of bold seriocomic thrillers (Metzger's Dog, Big Fish, Island) with ever more guffaws than grit. Here, though, he resurrects the anonymous hit-man hero of Butcher's Boy and sends him on a brawny, bloody vendetta whose rare humor is determinedly dark, even dour. In the decade since he fled to England after killing 20 mobsters in revenge for a double-cross, the ``Butcher's Boy'' has been living a life of cautious ease. One day at the races, though, he's spotted by a young American mafiosi who decides to bag the still-hunted assassin--leading to the would-be capo's instant death and soon to a pitch-black comedy of errors as the killer flies to America to settle with the mobsters he thinks are hot on his trail. A virtual juggernaut of vengeance, he lands in New York, buys a gun, and kills the young mafiosi's boss. He then jets to L.A., where, deplaning, he spots a gunman he assumes is another mafiosi- -and so he zooms on to Santa Fe and kills the head of the West Coast mob. The Butcher Boy then flies to Buffalo to buy a new I.D. but is spotted by yet another mobster, resulting in further carnage. All this gore-giddy mayhem is tethered by rich details of hit-man procedure and by flashbacks of the Butcher Boy's apprentice days, and is spun into unexpected twists by one big plot joke: The man in L.A. was not a mobster but a federal agent put on the killer's tail by his old nemesis, Justice Dept. star Elizabeth Waring. When the Butcher Boy realizes this, he decides to kill Waring--leading to lots more deaths and a tense climax that promises yet another sequel. Tough and energetic, but suffering from a moral black hole at the center: the Butcher Boy himself, a finally unsympathetic antihero whose nonstop killing makes him little more than a thinking person's Terminator.

Pub Date: April 24th, 1992
ISBN: 0-679-41064-3
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1992


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