14 October 2010

First romance, now fantasy

Taking Bird Loomis' advice, I picked up a book by Thomas Perry. And then another and another. I liked them. One of the things I liked was that the characters were new to me in each book. There are times when it's a treat to follow characters through several novels. (See Tony Hillerman, Dana Stabenow, and Jacqueline Winspear.) But the novelty in Perry's books was refreshing.

I did notice in the dust jacket bios, that Perry was identified as the author of the Jane Whitefield novels. I was curious enough to look for one the last time I was in the Northfield library (celebrating the centennial of its Carnegie building). I picked out the oldest Jane Whitefield novel I could find and checked out Dance for the Dead, published in '96.

The book starts out like gangbusters. The first two chapters are great short stories. I was ready to read a series of short stories with little ligaments holding them together into a "novel." Turns out that the rest of the book is woven around those stories to create the novel. There are other short stories, but by the time I got involved in the book, I wasn't looking for them anymore.

This novel, like most of the other Perry novels, is a fantasy. Jane Whitefield is a magician, a superwoman, and smarter than any of the other bears. She's a Seneca woman from western New York who helps people disappear when they need to hide from bad people. It's a dangerous occupation, but she's the expert. Like Sherlock Holmes, she has people who help her in small, but essential ways. She always has enough money and another identity with documentation (even ones she can share with her clients). She always knows people she can go to. They're always home. She always wins the fights. She always is the survivor. No villain that Perry can invent can outwit her for long. She's heartless with the bad guys and motherly with victims. She probably does everything except shepherd people into heaven. The ones she sees out of this world are obviously going elsewhere.

I had to put on hold my desires for believability. There's practically nothing believable in the book. The action scenes are well done and suspenseful, as long as you forget that Jane Whitefield is coming out on top a the end. The plot is simple, but the telling is complex. That may be why I liked reading it.

Have you rad Dance for the Dead? Have you read any of the other Jane Whitefield novels? What did you think of them? Write and tell this little bit of the world what you thought.

1 comment:

Ken Wedding said...

Bird Loomis wrote:


I loved the first JW novel, liked the second one, and then my suspension of disbelief ran out.

I can't think back to my first reading here, but the JW series didn't have the staying power that Lee Child or Michael Connelly or others has had for me. I burned out on Sara Paretsky, too -- but for a different reason -- she got too predictably political. I may go back and try some recent stuff, which has gotten good reviews, plus she's from here in Lawrence, KS.

BTW -- did you see the picture book flap reported by the NYTimes? Parents want to have their kids read earlier, so they buy fewer picture books. Stupid, but predictable.