Thomas Perry ironically calls book 'Fidelity'

April 28, 2008 12:04:50 PM PDT
Emily Kramer bolts awake in her eerily silent house. Her husband, Phil, is not in the bed beside her. He never came home last night.

Her dread building, she calls his friends, then drives to the office of the little detective agency he runs. The secretary and the three investigators Phil employs have straggled in. They don't know where Phil is either. They don't even know what case he has been working on. Phil, always reticent, has been downright secretive lately.

As they ponder what this might mean, the police call with the news. Phil is dead, shot down in his car on a dark city street.

In the days ahead, the official investigation leads nowhere, and the police move on to more promising cases. But Emily can't let go. She's convinced that Phil's job got him killed. With help from her husband's operatives, she sets out to learn what he'd been keeping secret.

For Jerry Hobart, shooting Phil Kramer was just another job. Pull the trigger, collect the blood money and don't ask questions. But now his wealthy client wants Emily Kramer whacked, too. Hobart can't help but wonder why.

Had Phil uncovered a dark secret the wealthy man wanted to keep hidden? Did Emily have it now? If Hobart could get his hands on it, would the client pay more for it than he would for would for a hit? So Hobart, too, sets out in search of Phil's secret.

With that beginning, Thomas Perry sets the determined widow and the cold-blooded hit man on a collision course in a book he ironically titles "Fidelity." It's a concept nearly every character in the book struggles with, most of them in more ways than one: fidelity to a wife or lover, to a friend, to a child, to one's job, to the truth, and ultimately to one's self.

Perry's exploration of this theme gives the book more heft than his fans may be accustomed to, but it also makes the last third of the book drag a bit, robbing it of the breakneck pace of the author's other thrillers such as "Silence" (2007) and "Nightlife" (2006).

Still, the novel continues Perry's string of memorable new characters. The star of the show this time is Hobart, who messed up his chance for happiness with one rash act many years ago, and who keeps making wrong moves in a lifelong struggle to make it right.