Sleeping Dogs

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In THE BUTCHER’S BOY Thomas Perry introduced one of his more endearing characters—an assassin known only by his professional sobriquet. Perry’s assassin was so successful that his work quite often went unnoticed. But then the Butcher’s Boy came to the attention of Elizabeth Waring and the Department of Justice. Moreover, his employers determined to dispense permanently with his services. Needless to say, inasmuch as he had no wish to go “gentle into that good night,” the Butcher’s Boy strenuously resisted retirement.

To that end, he assassinated the elder statesman of organized crime, framed a logical successor to the throne with the murder of yet another individual, and evaded his pursuers within the law enforcement community. With confusion rampant in the ranks of his enemies, the Butcher’s Boy faded into foreign exile.

Now, after a decade of quite retirement, the Butcher’s Boy is recognized by a former associate. In order to survive, Perry’s amoral antihero must return home to prevent information regarding his whereabouts from circulating. Indeed, the leadership of organized crime in America is diminished considerably by the passage of the Butcher’s Boy from coast to coast.

SLEEPING DOGS is a macabre comedy of errors, for it is revealed that the identity of the Butcher’s Boy was in fact never in jeopardy. Moreover, few characters in fiction can so consistently add two and two incorrectly with such murderous consequences. Still, for all his vicious traits, the Butcher’s Boy is a truly sympathetic character, and many readers will find themselves rooting for his success. Thomas Perry has not produced an extensive body of work, but what there is, is truly choice.