Tuesday, January 17, 2023

"Murder Book"

Thomas Perry is the bestselling author of thirty novels, including the critically acclaimed Jane Whitefield series, The Old Man, and The Butcher’s Boy, which won the Edgar Award. He lives in Southern California.

Perry applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Murder Book, and reported the following:
I think that a browser looking at page 69 of Murder Book would get a fair taste of the sort of book it is, although the most important and omnipresent character, Harry Duncan, isn't on the page. Duncan is a former cop and organized crime expert who has been hired as a consultant by the U.S. Attorney of the northern district of Illinois to perform a scouting mission to see why so many of Chicago's career criminals seem to be turning up in a rural region of Indiana. Is it the start of something big, or not?

By page 69 he's come to a small Indiana town along the Ash River and discovered what looks to him like the very early stages of an organized crime syndicate. He has been the target of an extortion attempt within an hour of his arrival, and later staved off an attempt by three brothers named Clark to sell protection to the female owner of the most popular local bar. His method has been to make the three look hopelessly stupid and incompetent, throw them out and get them arrested, so nobody will be afraid of them.

Page 69 occurs at the end of a scene. Russell, the organizer of the criminal group, has just talked with his second in command, Mullins. What Mullins has suggested is to call in a professional killer and have the three Clarks killed, and then replace them. Russell likes the idea, so he calls his mysterious backers in Chicago and takes credit for it, because, as he tells himself on page 69, "Talented underlings could grow into talented rivals."

Most of the page is about the first of the three Clark brothers getting released from jail. The eldest, Jerry, is the most annoying, so he'll be let go first. The second would be the youngest, Steve, because he's likely to be the peacemaker between Jerry and the middle brother Dennis, who is suspicious that his brothers are trying to turn on him. We see Jerry walking out of the jail in the middle of the night dressed in clothes from the police station's Lost and Found box. As he reaches the deserted street, about to begin a long walk home, he hears a car gliding up the street behind him. Then he hears the hum of a car window rolling down. "There was a musical voice, the voice of a woman who knew it would surprise him. 'Hey, Cutie." And the page ends. I think most readers will know right away what she must be up to.

I think it's a fair representation. The book is a prolonged contest between one very cunning detective and an array of people who are extremely violent and rapacious, and some of whom are adept at their schemes. Page 69 shows these people reacting to Harry Duncan's resounding defeat of the Clark brothers. The Clark brothers failed? Kill them and get somebody else. The book is fast-paced, a war between people who know that the fighter who strikes first is usually the one who gets to go home.
Learn more about the book and author at Thomas Perry's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Silence.

The Page 99 Test: Nightlife.

The Page 69/99 Test: Fidelity.

The Page 69/99 Test: Runner.

The Page 69 Test: Strip.

The Page 69 Test: The Informant.

The Page 69 Test: The Boyfriend.

The Page 69 Test: A String of Beads.

The Page 69 Test: Forty Thieves.

The Page 69 Test: The Old Man.

The Page 69 Test: The Bomb Maker.

The Page 69 Test: The Burglar.

The Page 69 Test: A Small Town.

Q&A with Thomas Perry.

The Page 69 Test: Eddie's Boy.

The Page 69 Test: The Left-Handed Twin.

--Marshal Zeringue