The Informant: An Otto Penzler Book Hardcover – May 5 2011
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When you’re a professional killer who works freelance, your employers are likely to include a large number of nasty guys. So it’s not clear to Perry’s nameless hero, who started calling himself Michael Schaeffer when he moved to England and settled in Bath as the husband of Lady Margaret Holroyd, which of his former associates sent the three men who inadvertently flushed him out of hiding and then tried to kill him. He has no trouble tracing the three to midlevel New York capo Michael Delamina, whom he kills on page two. In order to identify Delamina’s boss, however, he has to consult his old nemesis, Elizabeth Waring of the Justice Department. Taking a leaf from Hannibal Lecter’s playbook, he urges her, "Tell me, and I’ll tell you something." When Elizabeth fingers rising under-boss Frank Tosca as Schaeffer’s next target, he gives her some juicy information on an old Tosca murder in return. But although "he had never failed to accomplish his goal when all it entailed was killing someone," her news comes too late to help. By the time Schaeffer kills Tosca, the ambitious under-boss has convened a sit-down in which his counterparts from across the country have agreed to join his vendetta against the Butcher’s Boy—a goal Tosca’s death only makes them more eager to pursue. For her part, Elizabeth is so determined to bring Schaeffer into the Witness Protection Program as the ultimate informant that she’s willing offer him a series of unauthorized deals, which of course he spurns. Schaeffer is squeezed between two collective adversaries with virtually unlimited personnel and resources. On the other hand, only Schaeffer is the Butcher’s Boy. Beneath the sky-high body count, the twisty plot is powered by Perry’s relentless focus on the question of where the next threat is coming from and how to survive it." --Kirkus, STARRED review
About the Author
THOMAS PERRY is the author of the Jane Whitefield series as well as the best-selling novels Nightlife, Death Benefits, and Pursuit. He won the Edgar Award for The Butcher’s Boy, and Metzger’s Dog was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
Although I haven’t read the first 2 novels it didn't take me long to catch up and be captivated and totally absorbed in the excitement of this fast paced thriller. This series was first conceived in 1982 and has taking until now for the 3rd installment. One would think with such a large time span it would be hard to get into the swing of things, however, the author has added just enough details to bring us up to speed and set the stage for his protagonist, retired Michael Schaeffer. When he was younger Michael was employed by the Mafia and was eventually known in many circles as the Butcher’s Boy, an inner circle hit man. Inevitably, knowing too much he became a liability, realising his days were numbered he assumed a new identity and escaped the clutches of the Underworld just in time.
The story opens with Michael in his 50’s and 20 years into his new identity, living a quiet life with his wife in the U.K. One day his life takes a drastic change when he learns Frank Tosca, a ruthless underworld boss, has discovered his whereabouts and sent two of his assassins to fulfill a long standing contract on his life. With his new life as a family man threatened, Michael’s instincts for survival that were highly tuned while he was part of the underworld quickly kick in. He decides to confront his situation by attacking the man at the head, first he has to get up to speed on the current hierarchy and to do this he contacts Elizabeth Waring of the Justice Dep’t organized crime section. Elizabeth has known of his existence for over 20 years and realises helping him could be the catalyst to a new assault on organized crime….. The hunt is on in both the U.S. and Canada with Michael often barely escaping with his life.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The novel is a follow-up to Perry's debut novel, The Butcher's Boy (which I have not read; this is actually my first Perry book). Two decades after that book, Schaeffer is living a quiet life in England. He's happily married to a woman who understands (to some extent) his past and he's retired from the hit man game. Unfortunately, there are still plenty of mobsters who want him dead, so when he is attacked near his home, he is forced to go back to the U.S. and eliminate the mob boss who ordered his death.
This boss, Frank Tosca, is making a play to head the whole Mafia, and killing Schaeffer would go a long way to reaching this goal. As part of his plan, he creates an alliance with other bosses to put a bounty out on Schaeffer. Soon it becomes apparent that stopping Tosca will not be enough; the Butcher's Boy will need to terrorize the whole Mafia and stay alive long enough to make his enemies decide he isn't worth the effort of hunting. Part of Schaeffer's plans involves Elizabeth Waring, an Organized Crime official in the Justice Department who has been Schaeffer's adversary in the past. Both Schaeffer and Waring will try using each other for their own ends; Schaeffer to get back to his quiet life and Waring to shut down the Mafia.
This is a fun read but definitely one with a high body count; I didn't take a full tally, but including flashbacks, it easily gets into the dozens. The Informant is reminiscent of the Donald Westlake/Richard Stark series of Parker novels as it deals with a totally professional criminal who will stop at nothing to achieve his goal yet never goes out of his way to hurt an innocent person (but also doesn't allow anyone to get in his way). But unlike the Parker books, the Butcher's Boy is not really a series character, so you can't feel assured he'll live to the end. What does happen at the end? You'll have to read this to find out.
This third novel in the series has none of the former, but plenty of the latter, and takes into account the passage of time. He's grown older, slower, gets tired more quickly than in his youth. But he's kept himself in shape, and his sharpness and awareness has not dimmed with time.
What I love about the Butcher's Boy series is the prose is spare and lean and suits the character perfectly. Somewhat reminiscent of the The Continental Op series by Dashiell Hammett, the titular character is a bit of a cypher and requires the reader to fill in the character details, thus making your experience and perception of him unique. For as much as I'd love to see these books turned into movies, you could never cast them with a big name movie star. The star's box office draw would derail one of the central themes of these stories, which is that the Butcher's Boy could be anybody and blends into the crown as quickly and mysteriously as he emerged from it.
What your left with then, is a man who's all about the job. A job he is exceedingly good at. Is he a good person? A bad person? An emotionally dissociative immoral killer who's only good at his job and nothing else? That question is sort of answered, but un-satisfyingly in my opinion.
And then there is the matter of pacing. Which is fine for 9/10th's of the book. It moves along at a rapid pace as befits this sort of novel, but the conclusion seems rushed and a little too neat. In this book, Thomas Perry does a great job in setting up ever increasingly larger roadblocks for his character to navigate, until the end, where he seemingly builds a brick wall and then decides, "Nah. I think I'll take the shortcut instead."
Still, it's a fun read. A brisk read. A beach summer book, with short chapters that let you stop and start and read on lunch breaks, and let you pick up the thread and pace easily enough when you next crack it open.
But if you want to read a great book, read the first one, The Butcher's Boy. The Informant, much like the second book in the series Sleeping Dogs is like Lethal Weapon II and III. They're fun. They let you revisit the characters, but somehow, everything about that first experience you had with them seems better. The stakes were higher, the characters more well defined and more unpredictable.
I recommend it, if you've read the other two books. If not, go back and read the first. This one will keep until then.
In "The Informant," Michael is in his fifties, and has lived in England for years with Meg, his beautiful and aristocratic wife. He prefers a quiet existence to his adrenaline-fueled and violent younger days. Unfortunately, ten years earlier, he was spotted by a thug who recognized him, and more recently, three men tried to kill Michael and his wife in their home. Michael returns to the States to see if he can rout his adversaries once and for all. He embarks on a one-man killing spree, and Elizabeth Waring, who works for the Justice Department, sees an opportunity to take down various crime figures whom she has been after for years. Without her boss's permission, she tries to get Michael to turn informant in return for federal protection.
Perry keeps his story moving briskly with well-choreographed action and chase scenes, exciting confrontations, and a large body count. It is entertaining to watch Michael meticulously prepare for each step of his journey. With his savvy and willingness to take measured risks, he could have been a huge success had he used his skills, say, as an investment banker on Wall Street. Perry's dialogue is amusing and the author keeps us on tenterhooks, wondering how Michael will extricate himself from the gigantic mess he has gotten himself into. Although "The Informant" is fun, it is also pure fantasy. There is no human being on earth as perfect as Michael (he rarely makes mistakes), and it is a stretch that Elizabeth would risk her job and the well-being of her family to get the Butcher's Boy on her side. Fortunately, Perry keeps us from taking these far-fetched plot elements too seriously by focusing our attention on Michael's wild and perilous escapades.
The premise is simple enough. The Butcher's Boy, who in THE INFORMANT calls himself Michael Schaeffer, is the protégé of a skilled hitman named Eddie Mastrewski, who was known as "Eddie the Butcher." This was due in part to the fact that he owned and operated a butcher shop as a cover for his more profitable and much less legal work activity. Schaeffer learned his trade at Matrewski's knee and honed his craft to the extent that he became one of organized crime's most in-demand hitmen.
All of that changed when a mobster decided to renege on an agreement with Schaeffer by attempting to have him murdered instead of paying him for a job well done. When the dust settled and the smoke cleared, Schaeffer was the last man standing. The mob, of course, could not let the murder of one of their own stand. Schaeffer killed enough of them that he thought he could live under his pseudonym in relative peace in England and married to royalty. But a price is on his head once again, and, as the book begins, a middle-aged Schaeffer is both hunter and hunted.
What makes THE INFORMANT absolutely riveting and wonderful from beginning to end is not so much what Perry does as how he does it. Schaeffer moves back and forth across the United States (with a foray or two into Canada as well). He kills a mobster and a few underlings. Someone else attempts to retaliate. Schaeffer barely escapes with his life and then he retaliates too, inflicting further damage. His idea is to make the cost of killing him so high in terms of loss of manpower that he'll be left alone. If his adversaries were geniuses, though, they would be working in Oak Ridge, Tennessee instead of running drugs and prostitution and operating gambling casinos. They continue upping the ante, and Schaeffer keeps mowing them down.
Elizabeth Waring, who first postulated the Butcher's Boy as the plague that seemed to suddenly be striking a bunch of organized crime biggies and their underlings, is back again, and she's having a hard time choosing between her honor and her career. Schaeffer is the prize she wants to bring in, for the man is a wealth of information that's the key for bringing down the mob for good. All she can offer him, however, is some enforced witness protection, and Schaeffer isn't buying. He has that wife whom he dearly loves back in England, and he will get back to her if he can and die if he must. But he will take as many heads of the crime families with him as he can.
Perry breaks some rules along the way. You'll be reading along in the middle of a sequence when Schaeffer begins to reminisce about his past, about something Eddie the Butcher taught him, or about a job that happened 30 years before when he was Eddie's apprentice. Perry will then yank the story back on track. Somehow it all works. The Butcher's Boy is not dissimilar to Don Pendleton's Executioner or Richard Stark's Parker, in that all three men are stone-cold pragmatic killers. Perry, though, is a master at painting his Boy into a corner and finding a way to get him out. Those familiar with Perry from his other novels will relish this new installment, while newcomers will immediately learn what all the fuss has been about.
--- Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub
As a stand-alone book, the pacing is consistent and fast, and it does reel you in. Schaeffer, the Butcher's Boy, is a guy you find yourself rooting for, even though he's actually a stone killer when you take a moment and think about it. Maybe that's because the people he kills in this book are even worse than he is. But there's got to be a lot of untold backstory here that would alter that view when you realize that the people he targets in this book are Mafiosi bad guys who used to hire him to do their killings for them, and I'm sure they'd have targeted people who weren't necessarily so "evil".
Action-packed without being repetitious, it's a tight, fun read. Nothing really new, ground-breaking, or particularly complex. A pretty straightforward actioner. That's probably one of the reasons the Butcher's Boy novels are spaced so far apart. How often could you repeat this and keep it saleable?
Between three and a half to four stars, so I'll round it up.