In Thomas Perry’s new novel, The Boyfriend (228 pages, Mysterious Press, $25), a handsome young-looking guy in his later twenties is murdering young female escorts in various cities around the country. When the parents of one victim approach the private detective Jack Till, a former police detective, they seem willing to pay whatever it will take to find their daughter’s killer.
Jack takes on the case unwillingly: he’s not sure he can discover anything beyond what the police have already found. But when he finds that the police have been slipshod in various ways, he gets more and more intrigued with the details of this case. When he discovers that several girls look almost the same—thin strawberry blonds with blue eyes and distinguishing jewelry—he thinks he is on the trail of the killer, but still he cannot make any sense of the meaning of the victims.
After some close calls in various cities, Jack starts to notice that other murders, often political or business-oriented, and usually very major murders that are like gang hits, are happening in the same cities as the escorts' murders and he starts to connect them.
He figures out that the murderer somehow hooks up with girls, probably online, and then stays with them as long as it takes to carry out his real job. And then, before leaving, he kills the girls who have hosted him so that there is no real record of his even having been in the city.
As the novel progresses, we get the back story and some of the emotional involvement of the boyfriend himself and some of his victims. Perry is great at following out the implications of his tale, and at a certain point Jack knows he has the murderer cornered, perhaps with a victim about to be executed, and he is without police back up. That’s when things get really exciting.
Perry is an imaginative novelist with a hard-bitten style that is hard to resist. I was pleased to happen upon this novel, and I look forward to reading some of his other nineteen novels.