It’s nice to see Jack Till back. First introduced by Thomas Perry in SILENCE, Till is a former LAPD homicide detective and presently a private investigator. THE BOYFRIEND brings him back for an impressive reprise as he hunts a vicious, seemingly invisible, and apparently unstoppable murderer.
Till is an even-keeled, methodical investigator, neither self-effacing nor falsely modest, who lays out the cards with which he is dealt with some occasional assistance from the dealer. In THE BOYFRIEND, he is hired by the parents of a young woman who has been brutally and senselessly murdered. Catherine Hamilton is the victim; what distinguishes her is that she is a worker in the sex trade, self-employed and literally working without a net. Perry introduces Catherine to the reader on the afternoon of her death. We meet her murderer as well, a mysterious figure who Till quickly nicknames “The Boyfriend.” Thanks to Perry, we know ahead of Till how The Boyfriend does what he does, but we do not know why or the manner by which he and the victim have come to be intimately acquainted.
"While there is plenty of action and tension here (indeed, it may well be Perry’s best book to date), it is the moments that Till spends with his daughter --- in person and across the miles --- that make THE BOYFRIEND a memorable book and give rise to a heartfelt demand that we see more of Till sooner rather than later."
Nonetheless, we are a bit ahead of Till, who is playing catch-up from the beginning. He does have one advantage: that being a network of connections and good will within the LAPD. Such does not extend to the officers tasked with investigating the case, who seem more interested in putting roadblocks into Till’s way rather than moving them. But Till is not without other resources and, when confronted with roadblocks, goes over, around, or under them in whatever manner and fashion that he can. He discovers a somewhat tenuous similarity in Catherine’s murder to several others scattered around the country and begins a painstaking but fevered hunt for the woman who may well be the next victim.
As Till works his way through hundreds of possibilities that lead him on a heart-racing cross-country chase, from Los Angeles to Boston and back again, much is slowly and tantalizingly revealed about the murderer as well, a highly-trained expert in the art of killing whose murders are, to him, a small part of the cost of doing business but a very necessary one. When The Boyfriend does his day job a bit too well, Till finds that someone else is also hunting the murderer, and that he may well get caught in a crossfire meant for a vicious killer.
Jack Till is a sympathetic character, possessed of an inner calm but a driven spirit balanced by a quiet yet ongoing worry over Holly, his adult daughter. Holly is a cheerful, productive and active young woman with special needs; while the scenes in which Till and Holly interact are short and relatively few, they are among the most important in the book, revealing the most about Till by showing rather than telling what is at the man’s core. While there is plenty of action and tension here (indeed, it may well be Perry’s best book to date), it is the moments that Till spends with his daughter --- in person and across the miles --- that make THE BOYFRIEND a memorable book and give rise to a heartfelt demand that we see more of Till sooner rather than later.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 8, 2013