The Butcher’s Boy by Thomas Perry 1982
‘The Butcher’s Boy’ was the first of Perry’s 27 books and won the prestigious Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best First Novel. It’s hard to believe that a book written nearly 40 years ago could be so vibrant and feel so current. Despite the absence of cell phones, internet, email, and security arrangements at airports, this book tells a story that feels like today’s news.
In it, Perry introduces us to the two characters who will reappear in the Butcher’s Boy series which culminated in 2020 with another award winner, Eddie’s Boy—Elizabeth Waring, the DOJ analyst whose primary goal in her work is to find the professional assassin who keeps reappearing in the Organized Crime Division’s work and the unnamed son of Eddie, the Butcher’s Boy, who keeps reappearing as he methodically kills for hire. We never learn his name despite spending most of these 313 pages in his company.
The book that I read has an introduction by another of my favorites, Michael Connelly, written in 2003 which describes Perry’s work as ‘relentless’ in its plot, momentum, and characters, and this book is a terrific read sharing all those elements. To avoid having to issue a spoiler alert, I’ll simply say that the plot involves contract killing, the heads of several crime families, a DOJ informer, and enough dead bodies to make a formidable pile including one that is only a head.
This is the fifth Perry book that I’ve read and I’ve found each one to be totally engaging, superbly crafted, and filled with unanticipated twists and turns. They’re not for the faint-hearted since the Butcher’s Boy kills without hesitation or remors,e and there are some tough scenes. But if you like mysteries and suspense, do read this one and see if it’s your ‘cup of tea’. Perry is 74, so it’s likely that the series will be winding down in the not too distant future, so it’s a good time to get started.