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Nightlife: A Novelby Thomas Perry
Synopses & Reviews
Thomas Perry's novels of suspense have been celebrated for their "dazzling ingenuity" (The New York Times Book Review) and for writing that is "as sharp as a sushi knife" (Los Angeles Times). By turns horrifying and erotic, Perry's new thriller takes us on a dangerous cat-and-mouse game that pits two women against each other: a beautiful serial killer and the detective who is determined to stop her.
When the cousin of Los Angeles underworld figure Hugo Poole is found shot to death in his Portland, Oregon, home, police find nothing at the scene of the crime except several long strands of blond hair hinting that a second victim may have been involved. Hotel security tapes from the victim's last vacation reveal an out-of-focus picture of a young blond woman entering and leaving his room. Could she also be a murder victim?
Portland homicide detective Catherine Hobbes is determined to solve the case and locate the missing blonde, but her feelings, and the investigation, are complicated when Hugo hires private detective Joe Pitt to perform a parallel investigation. As the Joe and Catherine form an uneasy alliance, the murder count rises — and both realize that the pretty young woman in the security tapes is not a victim at all.
As Catherine follows the evidence, she finds herself in a deadly contest with an unpredictable adversary capable of changing her appearance and identity at will. Catherine must use everything she knows, as a homicide detective and as a woman, to stop a murderer who kills on impulse and with ease, and who becomes more efficient and elusive with each crime.
"Serial killer Charlene Buckner — aka Tanya Starling, Rachel Sturbridge, Nancy Mills, and several other monikers — changes her identity each time she commits a murder. By the end of Perry's mesmerizing novel (Pursuit; The Butcher's Boy), Charlene has racked up an impressive body count and her own personal Rolodex of bogus names. Yes, as a child she had a slutty mom, and yes, she was abandoned in her late teens, but her life story is hardly the horror show of most fictional serial killers. Perry patiently shows that it doesn't necessarily take child molestation and brutality to create a murderer. 'She was just a regular person who had always wanted what everybody else wanted — to be happy.' Portland police detective Sgt. Catherine Hobbes investigates Charlene's first kill, Dennis Poole, and follows close behind her, always just a little too late to catch Charlene or save her latest victim, as Charlene moves on to San Francisco, L.A., Las Vegas and other locales, where she pauses just long enough to commit another murder. Hobbes has her own issues, and by the end the two women have grown close not only in proximity but in identity as well. Reinterpreting conventions and confounding readers' expectations with fascinating characters, this is Perry at his best." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Charlene, the sweet young thing at the center of Thomas Perry's new novel, gets her kicks by killing men. She toys with us, enjoys such limited pleasures as we provide, then kills us because we annoy the hell out of her with our selfish, insensitive, boorish, sex-crazed behavior. To a male reader, this woman is a dangerous psychopath in need of serious corrective action, but female readers may find... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) her more sympathetic. Certainly, if substantial numbers of women followed Charlene's lethal example, we fellows might become more apt to remember birthdays, send flowers and master toilet-seat etiquette. In the novel's opening scene, Charlene, then calling herself Tanya, blows out the brains of a computer salesman named Dennis because she doesn't like his laugh, because he always tips waiters exactly 15 percent and because he 'was not a sincerely appreciative lover.' Dennis' demise occurs in Portland, Ore., and sexy, brainy homicide detective Catherine Hobbes is soon on the case. Meanwhile, we learn that Dennis was the cousin of a Los Angeles mobster who feels obliged to find out who killed his kinsman. The mobster hires Joe Pitt, a private investigator and former lawman, to examine the case. Pitt, a good-looking, charming fellow who tends to gamble away his earnings, hastens to Portland and is soon bewitched by detective Hobbes. She thinks he's pretty cute, too, but is mightily offended that he would work for a criminal. The rest of 'Nightlife' is dedicated to answering two questions. First, can Hobbes and Pitt stop Charlene's one-woman crime wave? Second, can the raffish Pitt overcome Hobbes' scruples and win her heart? Charlene's murders are marginally more interesting than the two cops' romance. Perry equips Charlene with an unhappy childhood to explain her naughty ways. She had a sluttish mother who brought home abusive men and entered her in beauty pageants. What's worse, the kids in high school were mean to her. Still in her teens, she was taken in hand by a rich lawyer who taught her how to dress, talk and behave like a proper lady. When he traded her in for a newer model, Charlene began her life of crime. Her M.O. is to meet men in upscale bars or restaurants and let nature take its course. Because she is smart, sexy and glib, men flock to her. She could easily marry some rich fellow and stop killing people. The problem is that men keep annoying her. As Charlene sees it, it's their own darn fault if she kills them — they ask for it. One fellow, for example, in a moment of post-coital contemplation, goes to stand on the balcony of their hotel room. Thus ignored, what was Charlene to do but toss him over the railing? Killing men, she has decided, is actually more fun than sex. Meanwhile, Catherine Hobbes is proving to be about the sharpest detective you've ever encountered. Time after time, she has insights into Charlene's behavior that elude her male colleagues. Hobbes, indeed, is a supercop who can dodge bullets, read minds and probably leap tall buildings in a single bound. Charlene, who learns from watching TV that the detective is a threat to her, is predictably annoyed. A woman shouldn't be so mean to another woman, she figures, so she heads for Portland to stalk her nemesis. Perry introduces some minor characters who are more interesting than his leads. At one point, Charlene is at the mercy of a 16-year-old boy who is crazier than she is — he delivers pizza, dreams of sex and wants to murder his parents. At first, she resists his demands for sex ('It would seem weird. I'd be embarrassed'), then she finally relents. But the lad pays a price for his presumption. Another time, Charlene is being hunted by a hired killer, of whom Joe Pitt says, 'He goes down the rabbit hole, and when he comes back he's got blood on his teeth, and there's no rabbit problem anymore.' Inevitably, as woman killer stalks woman cop, Perry contrives to put Hobbes in a hopeless situation from which only a miracle can save her. Alas, both the situation and its resolution are simply silly. 'Nightlife' is readable and fitfully interesting, but, in a market flooded with serial-killer sagas, it's too contrived to be outstanding. If you want to read a first-rate novel about a female serial killer, try Lawrence Sanders' 'The Third Deadly Sin' or John Sandford's 'Certain Prey' and 'Mortal Prey.' Legions of insensitive American men may need shooting, but we deserve more persuasive characters than nutty little Charlene to do the honors." Reviewed by Patrick Anderson, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"[E]xtraordinary....Nightlife owes more to the psychologically penetrating, starkly cinematic novels of Thomas Harris and Dennis Lehane than it does to any by-the-numbers police procedural....A lot of care and ingenuity have gone into the suspenseful chessboard plotting of this story." Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"The hints of romance are less than convincing, but the agonizingly detailed pairing of two determined women, complicated by the intrusion of a freelance killer, is masterful." Kirkus Reviews
"This novel's intensity comes from the skillful way in which Perry lets readers in on the secrets of the serial killer....Perry also offers a complex character in detective Catherine Hobbes as she races against the private eye to catch a protean killer." Booklist
"he characters never really come to life...and the plotline itself has a static quality despite the identity and venue changes. Disappointing." Library Journal
In his latest bestselling thriller that is by turns horrifying and erotic, Edgar Award] winner Perry takes readers on a dangerous cat-and-mouse game that pits two women against each other: a beautiful serial killer and the detective who is determined to stop her.
About the Author
Thomas Perry is the author of many critically acclaimed novels, including the Edgar Award?winning The Butcher's Boy and its sequel, Sleeping Dogs; the five-volume Jane Whitefield series (Vanishing Act was chosen as one of the 100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association); and the national bestsellers Death Benefits and Pursuit. Perry lives in Southern California with his wife and two daughters.
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