cover image Dance for the Dead

Dance for the Dead

Thomas Perry. Random House (NY), $21 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-44911-9

As usual, Perry (The Butcher's Boy) cuts to the chase. In the opening scene of this riveting mystery thriller, Jane Whitefield, an expert at helping people in danger disappear, slugs it out with three brawny hoodlums in an L.A. courthouse. At that point, she has traveled across half the country trying to protect Timmy Phillips, an eight-year-old heir to millions, from the stop-at-nothing professional killers on their trail. The same criminals, led by a powerful ex-cop named Barraclough, murdered Timmy's adoptive parents. Now they want Mary Perkins, a fugitive savings-and-loan fleecer who also asks Whitefield for help. Perry launches a complex pursuit, during which Whitefield relies on her Seneca heritage for insight and on friends for crucial assistance. A love interest highlights the personal price Whitefield pays for doing her secretive, dangerous work. The nail-biting climax takes place on a snowy night in a location that seems tailor-made for film: the rusting remains of a huge steel mill near Buffalo. The denouement may strike some readers as too neat, but it's a minor quibble. With his distinctive protagonist, thoroughly amoral villains and the unrelenting action, Perry scores again. 75,000 first printing; major ad/promo. (Apr.)