Perry, Thomas. The Boyfriend.

NY: Mysterious Press, 2013.

Perry has written twenty-odd suspense novels in the past thirty-five years, and they’re generally pretty good. And he has the awards to prove it. I’ve read more than half his books, and while I’ve enjoyed them, I’ve also discovered, unfortunately, how inconsistent he can be. He sort of specializes in protagonists who are on the run — or, in this case, on the chase — and he spends a good deal of time detailing the ingenious methods they make use of either to hide from the Bad Guys or to track them down and put them out of action. It’s an often fascinating process and it’s largely what makes the books worth reading, especially since the available technology has changed so greatly in the past quarter-century.

This time, the focus is on Jack Till, whom we’ve met before. He was an LAPD homicide cop for more than twenty years, and a very good one. Then he retired to become a PI, and he turned out to be very good at that, too — partly because he no longer has to operate under the legal constraints he was forced to adhere to when he carried a badge. Jack is approached by the parents of a young woman who was working as an escort (a euphemism for “call girl”) and was apparently murdered by one of her johns who cleaned out her stash of cash. The cops aren’t working very hard on the case (they figure she had it coming), but the parents want the killer caught. Then Jack discovers, via a vice cop he knows, that a number of very similar killings have taken in big cities all across the country during the past few years. There’s nothing at all random about these cases, and Jack is off on the hunt.

Perry then begins telling much of the story from the viewpoint of the Boyfriend, as well as Till, and we discover what his real business is, and how he trained for it, and what his objectives are. And we watch as more beautiful young women are murdered. All of which is fine, and makes a pretty good story, but the author seems to go off the rails at intervals, leaving the main storyline on hold while he pursues some only slightly relevant side plot, or describing some minor character in far too much detail. And his pacing can be kind of shaky. He tends to lose control of the narrative — a problem in many of his earlier books. There are also distractions, like Till’s grown daughter, Holly, who has Down Syndrome, that are apparently meant to demonstrate Till’s Good Guy side. She’s never developed as a character beyond the basics and doesn’t actually contribute anything to the story. Perry also has a rather flat and hyper-detailed style, sometimes taking half a page for someone to unlock a door and enter a room. It begins to wear after a while — especially since he’s no longer a beginner at this.

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