Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Poison Flower, by Thomas Perry (hardcover, $24)

Jane Whitefield, a modern Seneca warrior who helps people disappear, disappeared herself for ten years before Thomas Perry resurrected her in Runner in 2009. Jane appears to be back but she's a shadow of her former self. This modern Jane uses cell phones, surfs the web, and kills with impunity. The body count is high in Poison Flower. Jane herself, like the old Timex watches, takes a lickin' but keeps on tickin'.

In one of her more daring rescues, Jane helps a man escape from the Los Angeles County Courthouse. James Shelby has been accused of murdering his wife. Thugs hired by the real murderer much too expeditiously capture Jane and torture her to find out where she's hidden Shelby. There's a long, detailed description of what happens to poor Jane and is a homage to what Stieg Larsson did to poor Lisbeth Salander. Jane, like Lisbeth, doesn't get mad. She gets back.

Jane's story is told in measured tones, with meticulously described action and stoically withheld self-pity. The plot is advanced step by logical step and the characters explain themselves precisely, but neither is done with any inner fire. Still, the story is clever, and it's hard not to sympathize with whatever Jane wants to do in retaliation, especially after old nemeses surface for an auction to win a captured Jane. Have I mentioned the body count?

When I read Vanishing Act, the first Jane Whitefield book, way back when, I was amazed by how well Perry had created such a unique and interesting female character. The way Perry incorporated Jane's Seneca heritage and knowledge was a thrilling addition. Her coolness in the face of danger was contrasted by her anger over of the wrongs that had been done to others. She had a mission to sublimate her own needs in the service of these others. So, welcome back, Jane, whoever you are now.

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