He came to England to rest. He calls himself Michael Shaeffer, says he’s a retired American businessman. He goes to the races, dates a kinky aristocrat, and sleeps with dozens of weapons. Ten years ago it was different. Then, he was the Butcher’s Boy, the highly skilled mob hit man who pulled a slaughter job on some double-crossing clients and started a mob war. Ever since, there’s been a price on his head.
Now, after a decade, they’ve found him. The Butcher’s Boy escapes back to the States with more reasons to kill. Until the odds turn terrifyingly against him…until the Mafia, the cops, the FBI, and the damn Justice Department want his hide…until he’s locked into a cross-country odyssey of fear and death that could tear his world to pieces…
Sleeping Dogs, the second in The Butcher’s Boy series, catches up with Thomas Perry’s fascinating anti-hero ten years after the conclusion of the first story. Living in quiet, watchful retirement in Bath, a chance sighting by those who recognize him for his role in the mob war a decade ago catapults the Butcher’s Boy back into a world of ruthless violence and retaliation.
The story does an excellent job of fleshing out the events of the first book, and our now multi-named protagonist is just as intelligent and resourceful as he was when the reader first met him. However, ten years out of the game has made him feel rusty and ill-prepared for the younger generation of mobsters sent to hunt him.
Though the book was published in the early nineties, the mob aspect feels outdated and many of the characters are mere cardboard caricatures. Elizabeth Waring is just as grousing and foolish as she was in the first book, and Jack Hamp, the ex-cop who is supposedly keen and on the Butcher’s Boy’s trail, reads flatly. The protagonist’s British love interest is a pathological liar, but she provides some amount of comic relief.
The plot is driven not by action and ingenuity but by happenstance and paranoid impulsivity. Too many pages are devoted to exposition and the inner monologue of the Butcher’s Boy’s victims, slowing the pace to a crawl and making a portion of the story skim-worthy, and the writing lacked the unexpected lyricism present in the first novel.
Sleeping Dogs as a whole did not live up to the expectations a reader has when opening the pages of a sequel. Thomas Perry’s writing is solid, though, and the anti-hero’s exploits, near-misses, and cold-blooded kills were gripping to read.