09 March 2012

Countdown to Left Coast Crime: Day 20

Poison Flower by Thomas Perry.*

Reviewed by Marlyn Beebe.

When Jane Whitefield married Dr. Carey McKinnon, they both hoped that she could leave behind the former life where she helped people disappear. It worked, for a while. She became a model surgeon's wife: working on committees and raising money for the hospital. They thought about having a child. But eventually, someone desperately needed her help and she couldn't say "no". As Carey thinks to himself at one point during the story

"To her, saving people was just something a person did, if she happened to have the skills".
This book begins with the third "runner" Jane has helped since her marriage. James Shelby was framed for the murder of his wife. The people who set him up try to have him killed in prison, and he is taken to court to testify against his attacker.

Posing as an attorney, Jane helps him escape, then acting as a decoy,she is captured, taken to a remote warehouse and tortured. She manages not to reveal where James is, but her captors do learn who she is. When they discover that many powerful people would like to get revenge against her, they decide to auction her off to the highest bidder.

Jane Whitefield makes all of her cunning and intelligent moves seem like simple common sense. She is so attuned to the world around her: the people, the animals, trees and even physical structures, that she is able to anticipate almost exactly what will happen in any situation. Her actions are almost always calm and measured and planned. She has the enviable ability to focus on whatever task she happens to be doing, yet still remain aware of her surroundings.

Many of these traits can be ascribed to her upbringing as a Seneca, and her study of Native American history and folklore. It's only a tiny spoiler to reveal that there's a wonderful chapter in the book when Jane goes to the riverbank and gives a tribute to the Jo-Ge-Oh, the little people, as thanks for helping her to return alive.

Make sure to set aside a block of time to read this book. Once you open it, you won't want to put it down until you reach the end.

*FTC Full Disclosure: Many thanks to the publisher, and to NetGalley for providing me an e-galley to review.

Thomas Perry was born in Tonawanda, New York. He received a B.A. from Cornell University and Ph.D. from the University of Rochester. His many and varied jobs include  park maintenance man, factory laborer, commercial fisherman, university administrator and teacher, and television writer/producer.  The Butcher's Boy won the Edgar award for Best First Novel in 1983.  Vanishing Act (1996) the first Jane Whiteifield novel, was chosen as one of the 100 Favorite Mysteries of the 20th Century by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association.

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