It’s books like this that I really need to blog about, just so that I can remember I read them. I love Thomas Perry, I think he’s brilliant at what he does and Dance for the Dead is one of his better books so it’s really good.
You don’t read books like this in order to remember them. You read them for escape and entertainment. Over the years I’ve put a lot of time and effort into facilitating this kind of escapism in my life. The bookshelves of one entire wall in our apartment are lined with paperback mysteries and thrillers and cozy British family dramas (Rosamund Pilcher, Joanna Trollope) just so that I can take periodic breaks from my own not-terribly-taxing reality. But I need to be able to match the escape to the mood. And believe it or not, Perry often requires a modicum more energy or resilience than some other thriller-writers. His Jane Whitefield novels, of which Dance for the Dead is the second, concern a Seneca woman who spirits people out of the world and escorts them into an invisible hidden existence somewhere else in America. This particular novel includes an arch-villain who hides within a huge security company, running a separate kind of bounty-hunting operation. All of Perry’s books feature chases, nifty gadgets, creepy villains and weird walk-on characters. But Perry makes Jane almost human, so she gets depressed sometimes about what she does. Sometimes she fails, and that’s depressing, too. Perry had the sense to retire Jane after a handful of books, perhaps because he took pity on her. (Or maybe because the plot of each book must by definition be an extended chase, and that could get boring). Anyway he’s a terrific resource for a fast reader who sometimes needs pure distraction. My only reservation is that they are somewhat interchangeable.
Yup: here’s the paradox. If they were more distinctive, they would be more memorable. Then I wouldn’t be able to read them over and over again. Then they would actually be less useful to me, providing only 2 hours of harmless reverie rather than 4 or 6 (or, in the case of certain Dick Francis novels, 10 or 12).