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Blood Money
Thomas Perry
Penzler Pick, March 2000: When Thomas Perry won his Edgar for Best First Novel from the Mystery Writers of America in 1983, anyone who'd read The Butcher's Boy cheered. That remarkable tale of a likable hit man stayed in one's mind long after the last page had been turned. Now with nine more highly original thrillers to his credit, Perry still knows how to keep us enthralled and, even better, surprised.

After several standalone titles, Perry began to produce a series unlike any other, giving us in Jane Whitefield a heroine that I'd have to imagine many of Hollywood's hippest young stars are fighting to play. Introduced in Sleeping Dogs, Jane is a "guide" of a very special kind, a sort of warrior-goddess capable of the most daring feats of cunning and courage who by day pursues a satisfying life off the radar as a suburban surgeon's wife. Her ordinary existence is, in fact, so contented--and her husband so worried for her safety when she's helping mortally threatened men, women, and children--that each time she's approached with a desperate case by a new victim of evil, her first instinct is to say no. But there would be no series if she did, and we would miss her intricately assembled exploits.

Picture the Scarlet Pimpernel looking like the singer Buffy Ste. Marie (Jane's of native American heritage) and equally skilled at disguise and seat-of-the-pants strategy. Isn't that the sort of companion you'd welcome if you were on the run from the Mob with $20 billion (that's with a "b") of their money, its secret whereabouts all stored mnemonically in your head? Maybe you'd rather have the U.S. Marine Corps on your side, but if that's not an option, newcomers to the Jane Whitefield books will quickly learn (and her fans already know) that she can pull it off on her own. A wonderfully entertaining element of these original adventures is that Jane's guiding principle is simplicity. Thus, the reader's vicarious thrills lie in watching the process, the twists and turns of her schemes and, above all, her amazing capacity for forethought.

Blood Money, like all the novels by Perry, works equally well on the level of character study as it does in nail-biting suspense. The novels can be read as much for their remarkable insights into human nature as for the excitement of a first-rate thriller. Surely Perry ranks among the very top of the crime-writing fraternity. --Otto Penzler


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