Bestselling author Thomas Perry has a distinct and methodical way of telling a story: bare bones with no extra words floating around. He’s a master at writing descriptively, plainly and with remarkable clarity, as well as imagining what can happen when the net tightens in an exciting, claustrophobic thriller. These skills combine nicely in what has become his métier, novels of escape suspense. Perry loves to write about people on the run and the detailed, scrupulous preparations they must make to ensure they disappear successfully—as well as try to make a different life and stay hidden from their enemies permanently.
This distinctive narrative form reached a kind of zenith in Perry’s outstanding Jane Whitefield series, beginning with Vanishing Act (1996). The so-named “Jane” helps others elude, evade and escape when they are unfairly being targeted, usually by a criminal agency, whether private or governmental. Jane embodies a kind of one-person “A-Team” who can materialize to help—if you can find her, since she lives under another identity.
The Old Man, Perry’s latest fictional marvel, is a standalone with a similar pretext, and it’s equally addictive. The main character, who becomes known to readers by several different aliases during the course of the novel, seeks to escape unfair targeting by a secret U.S. government agency that wants to offer him up to accommodate a shady alliance with a terrorist Libyan government—one that our man, first known as Dixon, ran afoul of 30 years earlier. Dixon has been living a quiet life for more than 30 years. But they’ve found him, so he must put in place the getaway plans he’s kept ready throughout that time.
Perry astounds and draws in even skeptical readers with his blow-by-blow descriptions of Dixon’s plans to evade the agency’s draconian clutches. Aiding him are a couple of marvelous canines; a woman who’s a story all by herself; a doubting independent contractor; a 30-year collection of survival skills and weaponry; and in-the-front, out-the-back tactics and preparedness. The book’s pièce de résistance is an exciting chase through the deep snow, with snowmobiles pitted against snowshoes and skis.
The Old Man is Perry at the top of his game, and readers will rip their way through every word to find out just who’s going to win this contest.