Genre Book Showdown: The Boyfriend vs The Gray Ghost Murders

I recently read two ARCs (advance reader copies) from the crime/mystery genre.  The Boyfriend by Thomas Perry followed the investigation of a serial killer targeting female escorts that all happened to fit the same physical profile.  The Gray Ghost Murders by Keith McCafferty featured the discovery of human remains in a remote Montana location and the resulting investigation.  Both of these books were good reads, but read on to see which novel wins this crime-filled showdown!


The Boyfriend by Thomas Perry
Publication Date: 5 March 2013
ARC Provided by Netgalley and Mysterious Press

Synopsis from Goodreads: Jack Till, who has retired from the LAPD after a respected career as a homicide detective, now works as a private investigator, comfortable chasing down routine cases while visiting his 24-year-old daughter, Holly, who has Down Syndrome. But when the parents of a recently murdered young girl, about Holly’s age, ask for his help when the police come up empty, Till reluctantly takes the case.

It was discovered after her death that the victim had been working as a high-class prostitute, and the police are content to assume she was killed by a client, common in such a dangerous line of work. Yet as Till digs deeper, he realizes that the victim is just one of several young female escorts killed in different cities in the exact same way all had strawberry blonde hair, and all were shot with a 9mm handgun in the sanctity of their apartments.

Till must find his way around the tawdry and secretive online escort business, and decode ads placed by young women who all use false names, sometimes advertise using other women’s pictures, and move from city to city every few months. Yet when Till is finally able to catch up with the killer, he finds that the man he’s after is far more dangerous and volatile than he ever could have imagined. As the body count rises, Till must risk his life to find this seductive and ruthless killer whose murderous spree masks a far deadlier agenda.


Christal’s Review – 3 Skulls – B-

The Boyfriend was my first Thomas Perry novel and I did end up enjoying it.  I would consider this more a crime thriller than a mystery/thriller because the reader knows who the murderer is up front.  Instead of a whodunit, this turns the novel into a cat and mouse game as the chapters alternate between Till and the murderer’s points of view.  Will Jack be able to stop him before he kills again and why is it that he always looks for the same physical features?

Jack Till was interesting character with a fleshed out background, but we don’t really learn too much about what makes him tick.  I did like his interactions with his daughter, but he spent so much of the book in different cities that we didn’t really see what his normal, everyday life is like.  On the other hand, our murderer, The Boyfriend, is fully developed and we learn many things about his early life and why he does the things he does.  It was a little strange to have the murderer become a more vivid character than the PI, but since I believe this is just the first in a new series, it does make sense.  We will have multiple books to learn more about Jack, but the villains will probably be different in each book.  There were quite a few supporting characters but the ones that stuck out to me the most were Jack’s daughter, Holly, and the first escort that Jack meets, Kyra.

The plot was fast-paced and thrilling, and I did like the little twist that was thrown in.  The escort murders are just a small part of a much darker plot; The Boyfriend is just using them as cover for when he completes his actual missions.  I enjoyed getting to be both in Jack and The Boyfriend’s heads.  It gave the story a feeling of completeness that would have been hard to achieve from just Jack’s viewpoint.  The only thing that I was less than satisfied with was the ending.  It was very abrupt and didn’t feel climatic enough for such an involved chase.

All in all, The Boyfriend was an intriguing crime novel and one that I recommend to anyone looking for a thriller with an interesting lead and an intelligent villain.  I would like to see more books featuring Jack Till and will definitely be checking out more of Thomas Perry’s older novels.

Thank you to Netgalley and Mysterious Press for providing an ARC copy of this book!

Rating: ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠ 


The Gray Ghost Murders by Keith McCafferty
Sequel to The Royal Wulff Murders

Publication Date: 21 February 2013
ARC Provided by Netgalley and Viking Adult

Synopsis from Goodreads: Montana’s favorite fly fisherman detective is back on the case in this compelling follow-up to The Royal Wulff Murders!

When the graves of two men are discovered on Sphinx Mountain, Sheriff Martha Ettinger suspects murder. But with the only evidence a hole in a skull that might or might not have been caused by a bullet, she once more finds herself turning to private investigator Sean Stranahan for help.

Stranahan already has a case, having been hired by a group of eccentric fly fishermen called The Madison River Liars and Fly Tiers Club to find a valuable fly that they suspect has been stolen. Could the disappearance of a vintage Gray Ghost from a riverside cabin in the Madison Valley be connected to the gray ghosts who haunt Sphinx Mountain? Stranahan will cross paths, and arms, with some of the most powerful people in the valley to find out, in a novel that is sure to capture new fans for one of the mystery genre’s rising stars.


Christal’s Review – 3 Skulls – B

The Gray Ghost Murders is actually a sequel to Keith McCafferty’s first mystery novel, The Royal Wulff Murders.  I didn’t realize that when I received this ARC so I had not read it.  I have to say that it didn’t seem to affect my enjoyment of this novel as everything was still easy to follow, but I do intend to go back and read it when I have a chance.  The only drawback, for me, to not having read the debut novel was that it took me a little while to get all the characters straight in my head.  Other than that, I had no problems jumping straight into this book.

Sean Stranahan makes his living as a fly fishing guide and part-time PI in a relatively rural Montana town.  He has been asked to look into the disappearances of two prized fishing lures and then finds himself pulled into a cold case murder investigation after the remains of two bodies are discovered in the woods.  Are the two mysteries connected?  Are these actual murders or is there the possibility of a suicide pact?  Sean must find the answers before someone else ends up dead.

Sean was a great character.  I liked that he was a little bit damaged and trying to find himself.  He was supported by a wonderfully diverse supporting cast as well.  I really liked his girlfriend Martinique and the local sheriff, Martha.  Katie the dog handler was also a hoot.  All of the members of the fly fishing club were interesting as well, especially Winston the barber, Willoughby, and poor old Polly Sorenson.  The whole town is described so vividly that I can just picture it in my head — I can see all the characters milling about and living their daily lives.  Having never been to Montana myself, the fact that this book makes me feel like I have is quite a tribute to Mr. McCafferty’s skill.

The mystery aspect was very well-done and kept me guessing to the end.  I had a hunch about a particular character, but the way it actually played out was not as I expected.  The pacing was fairly quick throughout the entire novel, but I did get a little bogged down in some of the fly fishing passages.  I found it was okay to skim over them and not miss any important information; it was more or less background to explain the club and why Sean ended up in Montana.  I liked that the author included a lot of personal interactions between the characters instead of focusing on the murders all the time.  With this being such a small town, it is inevitable that everyone would know everyone else’s business and it was fun to see that play out.

I really enjoyed this novel and can’t wait to go back and read the first one in the series.  I think this has general appeal to all mystery readers but I could see it fitting especially well with cozy readers that want to try a more standard mystery and of course it would be great for anyone who enjoys fishing.  Mr. McCafferty is a writer that I intend to keep my eye on.

Thank you to Netgalley and Viking Adult for providing an ARC copy of this book!

Rating: ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠ 

So who wins the showdown this time? It was very close, but The Gray Ghost Murders eeks out a win from me.  I do think both novels are worth reading this time, so let me know your thoughts if you happen to pick one of them up!

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