The Burglar, by Thomas Perry

March 9, 2019 at 5:48 pm (Mystery fiction)

  An attractive young woman is jogging in one of Southern California’s many posh neighborhoods. She’s wiry, full of energy, good looking. She is alone; the sun, almost always blazing brightly, is setting now. This woman intrigues you, as she is meant to do. You both admire her and fear for her safety.

But you can put your anxieties to rest. Elle Stowell – that’s her name –  is well equipped to take care of herself. In point of fact, what she is actually doing as she moves swiftly and silently along this quiet street in Bel-Air is, to put it bluntly, casing the joint.

Yes, Elle Stowell is an unusual person. I found that as I read, it took some doing to get used to her. Her character is more subtly drawn, more complex than you might at first believe it to be. She gets herself in a jam early on when in the course of pursuing her “profession,” she stumbles upon a  scene of horror that she was never meant to witness. And her witnessing causes a subsequent tragedy that changes the course of her life. Among other things, it adds another skill to her resume: that of investigator, and a relentless one at that.

Perry has an offbeat sense of humor; it’s never more in play than when he describes Elle’s take on relations between the sexes, to wit:

The problem was that men thought of themselves as being more similar to anything else on the planet–male horses or wildebeests or  chipmunks–then to female human beings. Women were their opposite. To them, a thirty-two-year-old male physicist was more similar to a billy goat  than to a thirty-two-year-old female physicist.

I mostly enjoyed keeping company with Elle, although at times her ingenuity stretched my credulity. Truth be told,  I was looking for another Bomb Maker and this novel wasn’t quite it; for one thing, the structure wasn’t as cunning as it was in that masterful scare job. Nonetheless, The Burglar was an enjoyable read, and I’d be happy to encounter Elle Stowell again. She is nothing if not resourceful!

Thomas Perry


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