Jack Till, a dogged, no-nonsense former Los Angeles homicide detective turned private investigator, doesn't like to get involved in open police investigations, so when the distraught parents of a beautiful "escort" ask him to look into her murder, he tries to turn them down.
But once Till learns the killing is a low priority for the cops, he starts poking around. Soon he tumbles into a strange pattern. Several other escorts who all look very much alike - pale white skin, long legs and strawberry-blond hair - have been murdered in exactly the same way in major cities over the last several years. And none of the cases has been solved.
Joey Moreland is a killer for hire, and he's very good at it. He meticulously plans every job, kills without remorse and then vanishes like a ghost. But he does have a routine. In every city, he searches escort service websites for a girl who reminds him of a lost love, hires her for the night, seduces her with his charm and boyish good looks, and sweet-talks her into letting him move in. Once the job is done, he shoots her in the head, steals whatever cash she has lying around and moves on without leaving so much as a hotel bill to indicate he was ever in town.
When Till discerns the pattern of the killer he comes to think of as "The Boyfriend," he alerts the authorities, but they blow him off. So he loads his handguns and sets out across country to track down the mysterious killer himself.
"The Boyfriend" is the 22nd crime novel from Thomas Perry, whose work is characterized by tight, clean prose, well-drawn characters and heart-pounding suspense. Much of the new novel lives up to his fans' expectations of another first-class thriller, but in the last few chapters, the wheels come off.
Once Moreland senses that someone is on his trail, the brilliant, meticulous killer behaves in ways that are wildly out of character. There's no indication that he is panicking because he remains as cool-headed as ever, yet he makes mistake after mistake, leading to an inevitable, violent showdown that manages to be both dramatic and something of a letdown.
Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award, is the author of "Cliff Walk" and "Rogue Island."