05 July 2010

What's a caper?

This time I went to a book store and found another Thomas Perry novel. After Bird's classification of Perry as a fox of a writer (as opposed to a one-track hedgehog) and after reading Death Benefits and Pursuit, I didn't know what to expect from Metzger's Dog.

My curiosity was aroused by a quote from The New York Times Book Review on the cover: "Very sharp, very funny..." Then, as I began reading the book, I quickly learned that the Metzger of the title is a cat.

It only got better from the cover and the first page. It is very funny. Great one-liners abound, but they're very bound to the context. This is not a mystery or an adventure, it's a comic opera that belongs in the category of "caper" movies like A Fish Called Wanda, Ocean's Eleven, or The Italian Job. I'm surprised it never made it to the big screen or the little one.

A Micky Mouse crime gang steals some cocaine from a research lab and also nabs a stack of classified CIA research on how the USA could take over Mexico. After the mooks fence the cocaine, they find out what they have in secret paper and set out to collect from the CIA for keeping the secrets.

The meetings in Langley, Virginia about how to get the papers back AND terminate the criminals are the funniest parts of the book. I think we're likely to be thankful for the skills collected and used by the CIA, but we're also delighted to think of the people who work for "the company" as fallible and sometimes clueless. The spooks are fallible and clueless in this caper.

Metzger and his dog are not clueless, even if Metzger's feeder is slightly clueless. Metzger's feeder is the focus of the little crime club that hopes to retire on the cocaine money and the CIA's payoff. The CIA would llke to eliminate Metzger's friends, the embarrassment of the stolen papers, and the diplomatic disaster of publicizing plans for the overthrow of a friendly, neighboring country's government.

But the comic opera CIA director is a character out of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta and so are his plans for dealing with this situation. The plot gets more and more complex and less and less believable as it goes on. But Metzger's Dog is delightful. Once again, Perry got me through the rough parts with really good story telling. I recommend it.

Thomas Perry does indeed know many ways to write books. I'll look for more.

Have you read Metzger's Dog? Write and tell us what you thought of it.

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