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MURDER BOOK
by Thomas Perry
Mysterious Press, January 2023
420 pages
$27.95
ISBN: 1613163835


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Harry Duncan is a an ex-cop, private investigator, and cool dude. When his ex-wife, who is a U.S. District Attorney, calls with an assignment, he takes it on, somewhat reluctantly, but unwilling to say no to his ex. Her office has noticed that some of the regular bad guys on their radar have left Chicago, and at the same time there seems to be an increase in criminal activity in small towns in Indiana. She wants to find out if this activity is related and merits an FBI investigation.

Perry is an excellent storyteller he knows just how much information to include to make the story intriguing without bogging the reader down in unnecessary detail. Duncan is portrayed as an intelligent guy with keen observational abilities and a bank of knowledge that gives him an interesting variety of ways to outsmart his prey. One of the reasons I enjoyed this book was that violence is seen as a last resort. After he encounters the extortion effort in the Indiana bar, Duncan finds the bad guys' car in the parking lot, and superglues their guns to the steering wheel, trunk and driver's side window. This seriously hinders not only the bad guys' ability to use the guns, but also to drive the car to get away. Perry's wonderfully dry sense of humor allows the reader to relax into the story without fearing that there would be a gun battle around every corner.

That said, there is a structural problem with the second half of the book that interferes with the flow Perry established in the first half. More than fifty pages are devoted to Duncan's attempt to get an informant to safety pages that mostly consist of finding what they think is a safe place, finding out the baddies have caught up with them, and escaping to find another place to hide. Once the chase is over, the reader can be forgiven for thinking the story has ended, only to find an extended denouement where the real reason for the Indiana crime spree is revealed. This reason links back into a brief encounter Duncan had with an ornithologist toward the beginning of his investigation, and is so interesting that I think Perry missed an opportunity by not making it a larger part of the book. As John Grisham's THE PELICAN BRIEF did, this book could have been a vehicle for giving the reader more information on an environmental issue that affects more than just the people in rural Indiana.

Ellen Rosewall is Professor Emeritus at University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, where she taught and directed the Arts Management program for over 20 years. She is the author of both scholarly works and fiction. As an artist, her works have been exhibited at galleries throughout the Midwest. She is an avid reader, and is proud of her extensive collection of signed books.

Reviewed by Ellen Rosewall, January 2023

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