THOMAS PERRY – Sleeping Dogs. Butcher’s Boy #2. Random House, hardcover, May 1992. Ivy Books, paperback, April 1993.

   Any book about an amoral contract killer must inevitably (in my mind, anyway) evoke memories of and be compared to Westlake/Stark’s Parker. Yes, I know that Parker was a thief rather than a hit man, and that strictly speaking more appropriate comparisons would be Estleman’s Macklin and Collins’ Quarry. I remain unrepentant, however, particularly in the case of novels where the hit man is pitted against the (or a) mob, such as this one is. Stark’s Butcher’s Moon was the single best story of this type that I have read.

   Sleeping Dog is a sequel to Perry’s highly acclaimed The Butcher’s Boy of a decade ago, and takes place in approximately real time. The protagonist has left the United States and is living in England, hopefully safe from America’s organized crime,which he decimated and alienated in the first book. He is recognized quite by accident by a minor American crime figure while at the track in Brighton, and the mobster has the bad judgement to attempt to enhance his standing by counting coup. The results are predictable.

   Our hero (who use smany names in the book) quite naturally misapprehends the situation, and assumes organized intent rather than the serendipitous recognition which was actually the case. Though out of the game for a decade, his reactions have not changed in speed or nature: when attacked, remove the source. He immediately embarks for America to do just that.

   The whole book is a tragicomedy of errors, with the Butcher’s Boy, the mob, and various law-enforcement agencies assuming motivations and intentions on the parts of the other players that are completely erroneous, and result in much quite unnecessary mayhem.

   Perry is in my opinion an excellent writer. He paces his story well, the prose is crisp and unobtrusive, and the character of the kller is much more fully realized than is typical. Another character, Elizabeth Waring an agent of the Justice Department who had a leading role in the first book,is reprised and is also beautifully done.

   I am not sure that the ending of the book rang totally true; but then again, the character of an amoral killer is so alien to me that I won’t say it didn’t, either.

   I thoroughly enjoyed it. If you haven’t read The Butcher’s Boy, you should do so first If you like Perry’s style, try Metzger’s Dog also. I found his Big Fish of slightly lesser quality, and didn’t like Island.

— Reprinted from Fireman, Fireman, Save My Books #1, May 1992.

Bibliographic Note:  A third book in the series has appeared since Barry write this review: The Informant, 2011.

Editorial Comment:   My various tenures in DAPA-Em, where this review first appeared, overlapped Barry’s only slightly. Barry’s most recent review on this blog was of a Roger Zelazny fantasy hardcover, and at that point I had exhausted all of the reviews in the two mailings I had in hand.

   But not all is lost, however! Many thanks to Richard Moore, who has supplied me with photocopies of Barry’s first three contributions to the apa, and to Thom Walls, who has allowed me to borrow all of the remainder of the mailings Barry’s zines appeared in before his untimely death in 1996. We will not run out of Barry’s reviews any time soon.