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Reading

Runner

After taking a lengthy--and presumably enlightening--hiatus, Thomas Perry returns to his best-selling series featuring his popular favorite Jane Whitfield.

Book Digest Thomas Perry’s The Butcher’s Boy and Metzger’s Dog are two of the best books of whatever niche/genre in which you place Perry’s fiction. He is also known for a best-selling series devoted to Jane Whitfield, a woman of Native American ancestry whose talents and specialty are helping people at risk (due to battering husbands, mobsters, felons, and deviants of all stripes) disappear and assume new identities. Perry had written five Whitefield novels, and it has been about a decade since the last one. The author explains:
But as I’ve said many times, here and elsewhere, a writer’s most important task is learning to be a better writer. Writing a series about one character is a great way to learn, but I came to suspect that writing a second five volumes doesn’t teach us a lot more than writing the first five does. Writing a series is also comfortable, and being comfortable for a long period probably isn’t the best way to learn to improve. So after the fifth novel, I set the series aside. I told anyone who was interested that some day I intended to write about Jane again. But I wouldn’t do it unless I learned something about her that I hadn’t already written, and that was worth a reader’s time and attention.
With the publication of Runner (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), apparently that time has come, as Jane—who is now married to her longtime love and living a normal life in upstate New York—is once again drawn into saving a young pregnant woman from her sociopath former lover. His sole motive for retrieving her stems from the threat of being disinherited by his wealthy parents if he fails to produce a grandchild by a short deadline. Despite my antipathy to reading series—for reasons (some) of which Perry is aware: “Writing a series is also comfortable, and being comfortable for a long period probably isn’t the best way to learn to improve.”—Runner is eminently readable and forward moving (I believe “fast paced” is the usual cover blurb), with the author’s usual insights into the technology of identity. And for those who have missed the ingenious Ms. Whitfield, it appears Perry has set up a second Whitfield quintet.
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