Perry, Thomas. The Burglar.

NY: Mysterious Press, 2019.

Perry has written more than two dozen crime thrillers, and they tend to follow a pattern: The main character (who isn’t always a “protagonist,” really) lives and operates either outside the law or just on the very edge of it, and, in addition to the formal plot, the reader learns in great, often technical detail how he or she does things. One assumes that Perry does a huge amount of research before starting each new book, because his descriptions and discussions of the minutiae of various kinds of crime do seem credible. The problem is, the actual plot and the methodology of the narrative aren’t always up to the same level.

Elle Stowell, a lifelong Angelino now in her mid-twenties, is a career burglar snd sneak thief, and a skilled one, too. She’s barely over five feet tall, and slender and athletic, which means she can get into Beverley Hills mansions in ways that bigger-built thieves couldn’t. (Think dog-flap doors, which seldom have any sort of security attached.) She’s good at blending into a neighborhood while casing her next score, she knows how to look at a building, and she’s not greedy, so she’s selective and practical about what she steals

It’s while she’s ghosting through what she thought was an empty house belonging to an art dealer that everyhing changes for her. She discovers the guy in bed with two women, all of them dead with bullet holes in the head, and a camera is still running on a tripod. She can’t take the chance that the camera picked her up as she stepped into the bedroom, so she has to take it with her. And she has to decide whether or not to call the police — and how to do that without endangering her own freedom. Because Elle may be a criminal, but she doesn’t countenance murder. But that’s only the start, because her friends are soon in danger, too. And it becomes clear that she has also been targeted by whoever is behind the original killing and the other deaths that follow.

It’s a pretty good story, but (as usual with Perry’s books) there are a couple of problems. The main one is that neither Elle nor the reader ever come up with a single clue for at least the first eighty percent of the book. Not even a red herring. The mystery seems impenetrable, which is going to make it difficult for some readers to maintain interest. I mean, you want to compete to solve the crime before the protagonist does it, right? And then, as you can see you’re nearing the end of the book, one of the Bad Guys basically sits down and recounts the whole story/plot/conspiracy to an Even Badder Guy. You could pretty much read just that chapter and ignore all the prose that preceded it. Perry ought to know his trade by now, but his recent books have shown a certain laziness. Maybe it’s telling that I think his first two, The Butcher’s Boy and Metzger’s Dog, are still probably his best.

Published in: on 28 May 2019 at 5:41 am  Leave a Comment  
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