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!
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!
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!
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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