Saturday, April 2, 2016

Jane Whitefield Searches for a Friend from Her Youth

This is the eighth entry in Thomas Perry's series featuring Jane Whitefield who is the daughter of a white mother and a Seneca Indian father. Jane, who thinks of herself as a Seneca and who honors the old traditions, lives in western New York and has been married for several years now to a white doctor. For a number of years before she was married, Jane specialized in helping troubled people, who were often in serious difficulty, disappear and create new lives. Jane's was a very dangerous profession and she was often at risk, but she was very good at what she did and had trouble turning down a request from someone in genuine need.

Once married, Jane basically promised her husband that she would retire and devote her life from then on to her husband, to her home and, hopefully, to the children that they might have together. But people keep showing up at her door, and Jane keeps having trouble saying no, especially since as yet she and her husband have no children and she has only her home and her husband to keep life interesting.

On her last adventure, Jane was captured by some especially bad people, tortured and shot. She barely survived, and so one can readily understand why her husband, Carey, has little patience for any more such activity. But then one day, the eight Seneca clan mothers show up at her door. A young Seneca man named Jimmy, who Jane played with as a child, has been falsely accused of murder. Jimmy has run away and is being sought by the authorities. The clan mothers want Jane to track him down and ensure his safety.

Jane agrees to do so, despite her husband's strong misgivings, and it quickly becomes apparent that in addition to the police, but some very nasty people are on Jimmy's trail. Jane must not only hope that she can find and protect him, but she'll also have to sort out a lot of confusing and malicious activity before Jimmy can be safe in the long term.

I've been a huge fan of this series ever since the first Jane Whitefield book, Vanishing Act. Jane is a very clever and capable protagonist and it's always been fun watching the tactics she uses to protect and to create new lives for the people she rescues. That said, I was not much enamored of this book at all.

For starters, I'm having trouble with Jane's continuing marriage to Carey. In fairness to Perry, he has said that he intended to end this series several books ago, but the publisher and his readers wouldn't let him do so. Perhaps if he had known that the series was going to run this long, he would have never married Jane off in the first place. But the pattern that has existed over the last few books is getting pretty tiring. 

Jane basically promises Carey that she won't put herself at risk any longer. But then a "special case" turns up and she just can't refuse. She ask her husband to understand and then, whether he does or not, off she goes for weeks or months at a time, communicating with him very sparingly, if at all. It's clear that Jane's ties to her tribe and to her mission are much stronger than the ties she feels to her husband and one can't blame the poor guy for being unhappy about it. In fairness, Perry should have killed the guy off a couple of books ago, or at least had them divorce or something, because the pattern they've fallen into is simply grating on the reader, or at least on this one.

Beyond that, this book seemed to depend on one totally implausible coincidence after another and by the time I got halfway through it I had totally lost my ability to suspend disbelief and was left simply shaking my head. The second-to-the-last paragraph in the opening chapter is brilliant, but unfortunately, the rest of the book doesn't measure up to its promise. The crime that sets the book into motion isn't all that interesting or believable and the rest of the action suffers as a result.

I understand that in any series, some books will inevitably be better than others and so despite the fact that I wasn't entirely happy with this one, I'm looking forward to Jane's next outing. By that time, I'm hoping that she's ditched the husband or that he's finally had sense enough to dump her and that she gets a mission that's truly worthy of her talents.

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