Murder has always been easy for the Butcher’s Boy—it’s what he was raised to do. But when he kills the senior senator from Colorado and arrives in Las Vegas to pick up his fee, he learns that he has become a liability to his shadowy employers. His actions attract the attention of police specialists who watch the world of organized crime, but though everyone knows that something big is going on, only Elizabeth Waring, a bright young analyst in the Justice Department, works her way closer to the truth, and to the frightening man behind it.
Thomas Perry’s debut novel, The Butcher’s Boy, follows the ruthless exploits of a professional killer when he’s double-crossed by the mob after a high-profile hit. The novel is a race back and forth across America as the nameless protagonist methodically creates a war between the Italian families.
Perry has written the perfect anti-hero: a level-headed, intelligent, resourceful hitman whose vulnerabilities and fears make him all too human and sympathetic. His foil is the promising young data analyst for the Justice Department, Elizabeth Waring, who proves to be grousing, incompetent, and foolishly naïve. The strong female role in the story is a brief one in that of Maureen, a woman who “makes people disappear.” She’s a feminine counterpart to the protagonist, equally self-possessed and enterprising.
The pace of the first half of the book is slow, but midway the pace picks up and the last half of the story is a taut thriller. Perry’s writing is precise and succinct with unexpected lyricism and striking imagery:
“slabs of beef were being expertly shaved into pink pages”
“clothes on hangers suspended from a conveyer track on the ceiling whisked past…like frantic ghosts”
“a tiny lawn protected by a frail cordon of thirsty geraniums”
“above them a row of pegs where thick, damp coats hung like effigies”
The Butcher’s Boy falls prey to a plodding plot in the beginning and an irritating foil for the anti-hero, but those issues aside, the book was a gripping, edge-of-your-seat thriller with a unique story and a fascinating protagonist.