The Burglar by Thomas Perry: A Thief Hunts for a Killer in this Original Thriller

The BurglarThe Burglar

by Thomas Perry

eARC, 304 pg.
Mysterious Press, 2019

Read: August 25 – 28, 2018


Elle Stowell is a thief — a burglar to be precise. She’s careful, methodical, careful — she doesn’t use weapons, she focuses on cash and things that are easy to sell. You really can’t call anyone in her profession “risk averse,” but she’s as close to it as you could possibly be.

She’s a cute, petite blonde working in some of the most exclusive neighborhoods in LA. Her appearance gets her over-looked by those who ought to find her suspicious and her size and athletic ability help her get into places that she shouldn’t be. She makes enough to finance her lifestyle — and a little more. But primarily, she lives this way for the thrill.

All that changes one day when she breaks into a home and finds three bodies in the bedroom, clearly the victims of a shooting. She also notices that a video camera in the room which probably caught the murder — it definitely caught her. So she steals the camera from the scene and runs. She verifies that, yes, it shows the murder and a little bit of what led up to it. After making a few copies — and removing her self from the footage — she returns the camera for the police to use the footage.

Soon after this, she begins to hear of three people looking for her at some of her usual haunts. She’s told that they seem like cops, but she’s not sure. Cops or not, she wants nothing to do with them. Once bodies start showing up — bodies that are related to her in some way — she knows that she has to find the murderers or she’ll never be able to stop looking over her shoulder.

I don’t really think that I got to the point that I liked Elle — she’s a criminal, not one driven to it or forced to steal or anything. She made a choice at some point to steal and has stuck with it. She’s not particularly flamboyant about it — like Jim DiGriz or Nicholas Fox or anything. Her approach is clinical, serious, no-nonsense. So there’s none of the typical fictional trappings that make you like a thief character.

However, it wasn’t that far into the book when I realized that I was really invested in what’s going on with her — how is she going to escape the ramifications of what she’s seen? Is she being paranoid, or is there someone actually after her? Will she be able to bring them to justice without incriminating herself? How did they figure how who she was? Why were the original murders committed? Why isn’t anything happening with that video she left the police?

There are other characters — a couple that you get to spend some good time with, too. But this book is all about Elle. Like I said, I don’t think I ever liked Elle, but I appreciated her as a character. The other characters that are around for more than a few paragraphs are just interesting enough to justify their presence. Some bring out some interesting sides of Elle’s character or past. Others help us understand just what kind of mess she’s fallen into.

This is my third Thomas Perry book in the last year, and I was far more invested in the events of this than I was in either of the others — he kept reeling me in page by page. The pacing of this is great — just like Elle herself, Perry knows when to slow down and let you catch your breath and then when to dash off and leave you hanging on by your fingertips.Perry’s been at this for a while and it shows — he knows how to write a thriller.

Unlike many crime novels (including the other Perry novels), you don’t get to know anything about the murderers until the ending — you have an idea about them before the ending, but it’s not until the closing chapters that you actually learn anything. I loved that, I was just as much in the dark as Elle was. Perry didn’t get into the killer’s mindset or motivation at all. They were just out there, threatening Elle until she’s put the pieces together.

This was a fun read. It was gripping, it was unique, it was complex — and come to think of it, the motive for the killing and the crimes surrounding the murder aren’t like anything I remember in Crime Fiction. That alone makes it worth your while. Perry really delivered the goods with this one, and I encourage you to give it a shot.

—–

3.5 Stars

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Grove Atlantic via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

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The Bomb Maker by Thomas Perry

The Bomb MakerThe Bomb Maker

by Thomas Perry

Hardcover, 372 pg.
Mysterious Press, 2018

Read: January 29 – 31, 2018


Oh man . . . this brings me back to the conflict I felt trying to discuss Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes. This is a heckuva read until it’s not — but we’ll get to that in a bit.

I know precious little about Bomb Squads, and have read precious little about them. I think Crais’ Demolition Angel is the only other book with a Bomb Tech in it for more than a few pages that I’ve read. So I was pretty excited to give this one a shot — incidentally, I do think there are areas of overlap between this book and Crais’ that’d make for interesting reading. Sadly, it’s been about 15 years since I read Demolition Angel, so I won’t be writing that. Still, my main point is that there’s not a lot written about Bomb Techs, and that seems pretty strange, because this kind of thing makes for some great tense moments — the kind of thing that thriller readers love.

(feel free to fill up the comments telling me how wrong I am and that there are dozens of great examples of Bomb Tech/Bomb Squad literature out there)

What we have here is a guy, never given a name, or dubbed with one by the media that we’ll call “the bomb maker.” We know nothing about him at the beginning, and learn only a little about him later on — for some reason, he’s decided to kill off every bomb tech in LA. And he does so by making bombs designed to sucker the Bomb Techs into doing X or Y, which will both set off the bomb itself. In his first attempt, he kills half the division — 14 of 28, including the commanding Captain.

What’s the LAPD to do? Thankfully, one of the Deputy Chief’s knows a guy — the last guy to command the Squad still lives in town, running a high-priced security firm. So the Chief recruits Dick Stahl to come back and help the LAPD through this time. Stahl knew most of the people that died, trained many of them himself and would like to help get some justice for them and prevent others from joining them.

So begins a great cat-and-mouse game. The bomb maker is pretty smart and knows how Bomb Techs think, so he fools them into setting bombs off. Stahl doesn’t know much about the guy beyond that, so he goes out of his way to overthink the bombs and finds the tricks that were included and thinks around them. Some of the squad start to think like him, and others don’t. You can guess how that works out for all involved. The bomb maker sees how Stahl is figuring him out, and steps up his game, making bombs that are more clever and more devastating.

This aspect of the book — which really is the bulk of it, thankfully — is just great. Perry could’ve given us another 100 pages or so of it and I wouldn’t have complained.

There’s a little bit romance between Stahl and someone, which complicates things and could’ve bery easily annoyed me because it seems so extraneous. I think the way Perry dealt with it and used in to tell his story ended up working, but I’m not going to argue with anyone who was bothered by it (I easily could’ve been). But for me, when you add these complications into the cat-and-mouse thing, it just makes for a better read.

Which is not to say that this book doesn’t have its share of problems. We get a lot of backstory on a couple of incredibly minor characters. There’s one character whose sole purpose is to find a bomb and call the police, yet we get a lot of detail on the career she gave up, why she did so, and what that costs her to this day, just to have her find a bomb. I liked the character (what we got of her anyway), her part of the book was well-written, but it seems silly to get that much detail on someone who disappears almost immediately. It’s like on award shows when they introduce a minor celebrity just so they can come on stage to introduce the award presenters. It’s just pointless. Perry does this kind of thing more than once here, meanwhile we don’t get a lot of information about most of the Bomb Squad members we do get to see do things. It makes little sense, adds little, and ultimately detracts from the suspense he’s building. I don’t get it.

One thing for sure, I add mostly as an aside, between the mysterious bad guy in Silence and the bomb maker here, I’m sure that Thomas Perry can write a great creep. Not just a bad guy with no respect for life or property or whatever, but a real cad who should never be allowed near a female. I’m not suggesting that describes all of his characters, just some of them — just the fact that the paid assassin is a step-up for Sylvie Turner (also from Silence) compared to the previous guys she was serious about says something about the kind of creep Perry can write.

I’m going to get close to a spoiler or two here, so feel free to skip this paragraph. If you’re still here, in the last 40 pages (less than that, actually, but let’s keep it vague), this becomes a different kind of book. It feels like Perry realized what his page count was and wanted to keep it below 375 so he had to bring the cat-and-mouse thing to an end. The action kicks into high gear, and the very intelligent thriller throws out the intelligence and becomes a couple of action sequences. Well-done and compelling action sequences, but a very different feel from the rest of the book. He also switches from giving us too much detail (like the life story of the lady who found a bomb) to giving us almost no information to help wrap up the closing events of the novel. I won’t even begin to talk about the last four pages, the final chapter almost doesn’t belong in the book — it does give us a teeny bit of resolution, but again, feels like a different book than what had come before. My kids can testify to this, I was yelling at the book during the final few pages, because I just didn’t get what Perry was up to.

This was a solid, smart, compelling thriller about the kind of characters you want to read about — smart professionals, acting for the public good and for the sake of their teammates up against smart professionals out to do wrong. I had a blast with most of this, and could forgive the tangents he went off on, up until the end. I did, generally, still like the end, even so. I still recommend this and think you’ll like it — I just wish Perry’d landed it better. It was almost a 4-star book, possibly more, but that ending . . .

If you have — or eventually do — read this, let me know what you thought of it. I’m really curious to see what others thought.

2018 Library Love Challenge
3.5 Stars

Silence (Audiobook) by Thomas Perry, Michael Kramer

SilenceSilence

by Thomas Perry, Michael Kramer (Narrator)
Series: Jack Till, #1
Unabridged Audiobook, 13 hrs and 15 mins.
Tantor Audio, 2007

Read: January 12 – 26, 2018


Jack Till is a retired LAPD homicide detective turned P.I. Six years ago, he helped a woman named Wendy Harper vanish from the face of the Earth. She’d been horribly beaten and was afraid that next time she wouldn’t survive, and neither would her loved ones. But now, for reasons unknown, someone has framed her former business partner/fiancĂ© for her murder. It’s clearly a trap set for her, but the only way to prove his innocence is to prove that she’s still alive.

Even though Till knows the tricks he taught her to disappear, he doesn’t know how she applied his lessons or where she might have gone. It takes some ingenuity, tenacity and luck, but he eventually does. It then takes a lot more of the same to get her back to LA to demonstrate that she habeas her own corpus.

Meanwhile, Paul and Sylvie Turner, ballroom dancing aficionados and professional killers, perpetrated the frame and are on Till’s trail as he looks for Wendy (or whatever her name is now). They flirt, bicker and kill their way across California and beyond in their efforts kill Wendy.

The narration jumps between the perspectives of Till, Paul and Sylvie for most of the book — with a little bit of Wendy’s and, eventually, the man who hired the Turners. Perry makes some interesting choices about whose perspective we see some events through, giving us Till when you’d expect a Turner (and vice versa). Not only do we see the current action from their perspectives, we get a pretty detailed backstory for Till, the Turners and their boss — interestingly, almost everything we learn about Wendy, we learn from her disclosures to TIll, so we only see her from his point of view.

I really got into the story, and found the Turners pretty interesting — ditto for Till. The focus was on the Turners enough that if you told me that Perry’d written a sequel about them, I’d believe it (he did write one about Till). I never managed to get as invested in the backstory (or the current-story) about the man who hired the Turners. There’s some good twists, some smart reveals, and just good action moments.

I found the dialogue stiff, awkward and occasionally painful — the interior monologues of the various POV characters could also grate my nerves. I’m honestly not certain if that’s Perry’s issue or Kramer’s. Thankfully, the story was strong enough that I could put up with the problems I had.

Kramer’s got a huge list of credits, and is clearly beloved by many. But man . . . I found him tolerable at best, and frequently annoying. There’s a lot of problems that I had with the book that I’m attributing to his narration — I may be wrong about that, but I think if I’d been reading the book, I’d have overlooked and/or not had many of the problems that I did.

A strong story, with enough tense moments to satisfy any thriller reader, Silence is something to try, but probably only in text-form.

—–

3 Stars