Gripping thriller gets off to fast start, never lets up

Back in the day most book publishers took a willy nilly approach to sending books to reviewers. We could not predict which books would turn up in the mail. They don’t do that any more. However they still send us book pitches willy nilly. Thirty years ago those pitches would come as first class mail. Nowadays they are almost always in the form of emails.

Book publicists maintain lists of reviewers and with their relentless clicking of buttons in Manhattan our email inboxes absorb an endless barrage of sales pitches for every sort of book one could imagine. I get about 100 such pitches each weekday. The subject lines usually tell me all I’ll need to know. I do read some pitches, but life is so short, why waste many precious moments scanning emails when I already have all these other books waiting for me to dive in?

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Recently I got a pitch for “Murder Book,” the latest novel by Thomas Perry, a writer who is a living legend and I had never read any of his books. Unbelievable. Every week I try to discover at least one author who is new to me. It can be quite a rewarding pursuit.

Perry deserves every accolade. You always know it right away when an author really has it going on, Perry drew me into his story quickly and he never lets up. What a storyteller he is, I could not turn the pages fast enough. As soon as I finished the book I began seeking out his other works.

In “Murder Book” Harry Duncan is a former policeman now working in Chicago as a private investigator. As the story starts the U.S. Attorney has just inquired about hiring him to look into some criminal activity in Indiana. He’s reluctant to take the job because this particular prosecutor is also his ex-wife. Their marriage ended badly and they have rarely spoken since.

Naturally he agrees because otherwise we would have no story. Duncan is a methodical guy. He reminded me a bit of Lee Child’s character Jack Reacher. The sort of fellow who walks into hardware stores to obtain arrays of seemingly unrelated items we anticipate he’ll eventually deploy with devastating ingenuity against the baddies.

Duncan heads to Indiana to check out the situation there. He wants to blend in so he is driving a nondescript car. Upon arriving he stops at a restaurant and he’s just settling in to eat when he’s informed that there are some guys messing around with his car in the parking lot.

Then Duncan really begins to impress as he deals with a couple of thugs who try to shake him down. This is his first encounter with a criminal gang that is in the process of taking over the region. Local businesses are being threatened; pay us protection money or else. Homeowners are getting intimidated into selling their properties for pittances. It makes no sense. What are they doing here? And why?

I savored this rip roaring, gripping thriller.

Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit www.wyso.org/programs/book-nook. Contact him at vick@vickmickunas.com.

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