Cover image for Blood money : a novel
Title:
Blood money : a novel
Author:
Perry, Thomas.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Random House, 1999.
Physical Description:
351 pages ; 25 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780679453048
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

"Thomas Perry just keeps getting better," said Tony Hillerman, about Sleeping Dogs--and in this superb new novel by one of America's best thriller writers, Jane Whitefield takes on the mafia, and its money. Jane Whitefield, the fearless "guide" who helps people in trouble disappear, make victims vanish,has just begun her quiet new life as Mrs. Carey McKinnon, when she is called upon again, to face her toughest opponents yet.  Jane must try to save a young girl fleeing a deadly mafioso.  Yet the deceptively simple task of hiding a girl propels Jane into the center of horrific events, and pairs her with Bernie the Elephant, the mafia's man with the money.  Bernie has a photographic memory, and in order to undo an evil that has been growing for half a century,he and Jane engineer the biggest theft of all time, stealing billions from hidden mafia accounts and donating the money to charity.  Heart-stopping pace, fine writing, and mesmerizing characters combine inBlood Moneyto make it the best novel yet by the writer called "one of America's finest storytellers,"(San Francisco Examiner).


Author Notes

Thomas Perry was born in Tonawanda, New York, in 1947. He graduated from Cornell University in 1969 and earned a Ph. D. in English Literature from the University of Rochester in 1974.

Perry's novels, successful both critically and with the public, are suspenseful as well as comic. Butcher's Boy received an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best First Novel in 1983, and another one of his novels has been adapted in the movie, The Guide (1999). His other novels include: Death Benefits, Nightlife, Fidelity, and Strip.

(Bowker Author Biography) Won an Edgar for The Butcher's Boy, and Metzger's Dog was a New Yor Times Notable book of the Year. Vanishing Act was chosen as one of the 100 Favorite Mysteries of the century by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association. Perry's other works include: Death Benefits, The Face Changers, Shadow Woman, Dance for the Dead, and Blood Money. He lives in Southern California with his wife and two daughters.

(Publisher Provided)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

" I'm not a believer in last stands. I'm a believer in running." But Jane Whitefield, a professional "guide" who helps people in trouble disapper, hopes she's through running. Married to a surgeon and living quietly in upstate New York, Jane wants to set down roots of her own rather than helping others uproot themselves from endangered lives. A good plan--until a girl in trouble knocks on the door and mentions the name of a mafioso with whom Jane has a past. All of Perry's Whitefield novels are plot-rich adventures in which the external world hides threats both seen and unseen, making details matter even more than they do in daily life. This time the idea of outthinking the opposition, or at least thinking first, is even more at the center of things than usual, since one of the two people Jane strives to disappear is Bernie the Elephant, the Mob's one-man money launderer who cleanses warring families' cash but never writes anything down--the location of the loot is all in his memory, much as Jane's success as a guide is contingent on the details in her head. Hatching a plan to give the Mob's money to charity, Jane and Bernie quickly learn that making money disappear is every bit as tricky as making people disappear. What makes this series so consistently engaging is not only Perry's ability to cleverly untie the Gordian knot of his plots but also to draw us closer and closer to his people. Details make a successful thriller, but they can also overwhelm the inferior one. Perry mixes plot and character with great delicacy, producing a superbly emulsified whole. --Bill Ott


Publisher's Weekly Review

Jane Whitefield, first introduced in Perry's Vanishing Act, makes her fifth appearance as a ghostmaker, someone who provides new identities for people in trouble. In this fast-paced thriller, Jane, a one-woman witness protection program, is semiretired, married to a doctor and living a quiet life until a teenage girl, Rita Shelford, comes to her door seeking help. The girl is being hunted, having witnessed a mob shakedown at the Florida house she was employed to clean. Protecting the girl propels Jane into a series of adventures involving Bernie the Elephant, an old man with a photographic memory who has kept Mafia financial records in his head for decades. With Jane's help, Bernie steals billions of dollars from the Mafia accounts and donates the money to charity. Not happy, the mobsters use every trick to capture Jane and Rita. The two women cross the U.S. several times, barely staying one step ahead of their pursuers. While there are many exciting moments, the story bogs down in several places while the mobsters speculate, rehashing information the reader already knows. Perry's writing style and vocabulary are easy and simplistic, and Jane sometimes seems too cool, and too smart, for her own good. The Mafia characters are numerous and interchangeable, and the story ends limply, with four unnecessary closing chapters. This is far from Perry's best, but it's still a quick, easy read with a few thrills. (Jan.) FYI: Perry won an Edgar for The Butcher's Boy. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

In Perry's tenth novel (the fifth in the Jane Whitefield series), JaneÄwho is part Native American and who regularly helps fugitives disappearÄleaves the attractions of husband and home to help an 18-year-old and an old man who are fleeing the mob. About to be replaced by computers and facing certain death, Bernie "the Elephant" Lupus, who handledÄin his headÄthe finances of 12 major mob families for 50 years, fakes his own murder and winds up in the hands of Jane, at first out to help only his maid. But soon the three of them, along with an accountant, are involved in a plot to steal over $14 billion of the mob's investments and then donate the funds to charity. Even readers who find the setup far-fetched will enjoy the fast pace of this entertaining thriller with its resourceful heroine, fascinating characters, convincing development of intrigue, and ever-present menace. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/99.]ÄRonnie H. Terpening, Univ. of Arizona, Tucson (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

"Sure I do," said Jane. "There is no way that you could have learned that Celia knew me unless Celia told you." The girl had really seen Celia, but that didn't mean Celia was right about her. There had to be some other way, some sensible solution that Celia simply hadn't thought of. Jane wanted to say, "I'm not Jane Whitefield anymore. People who are about to die don't come to me anymore and ask me to make them vanish. I can't leave my husband and take on your problem. I made a promise." Maybe if she knew more, she could figure out a way to help this child without risking her own chance for a new life. "What made you go to Celia?" The girl said, "I went to her because she was nice to me once a few years ago, when my mother had a fight with her boyfriend and the police came. Celia said that if I was in trouble I should come back." When Jane heard the word "mother," she felt a half-second of hope-that's right, she's a kid, so there's a mother-but the rest of the sentence dampened it. "Where are your parents now?" "My father ... I don't know about him. He was just another boyfriend, and he took off when I was a baby. My mother, she had some trouble a couple of years ago and. . ." The girl shrugged placidly. "You know. She's a doper." So much for the mother. "How long has she been in jail?" "A year and a half, about, counting the trial. They won't make her do the whole five." "What about you? Who has been taking care of you?" The girl shrugged again. "My mother lied to them and said I had an aunt that was taking care of me. I asked her to, and it was the least she could do after something stupid like that: set me free. Otherwise, they lock you up in a county home, or they farm you out to foster parents, who lock you up at their house, and I wasn't the one who did anything to get locked up. So I bought some ID from a guy I used to watch in a park selling driver's licenses and Social Security cards to Central Americans who came to pick fruit. I went all the way to Tampa to search for jobs, so the ID didn't look too familiar." Jane kept probing, listening for some statement that had to be a lie. "What was the job?" "Hotel maid. You work pretty hard, but it was just cleaning and making beds, and I knew how to do that much." Jane said, "All right, Rita. Let's get to your problem. Exactly what kind of trouble are you in?" "It's hard to say." "You mean you don't know, or just that it's hard for you to tell me?" "I don't really know. I was working at the hotel. There was this man who stayed there a lot. He was nice. Kind of handsome for an old guy, and funny. His name is Danny." "How old?" "At least thirty." She saw Jane's eyes begin to look as though she'd heard the story before, and said hastily, "It's not that kind of trouble. Danny never touched me. He had a girlfriend. She never even pretended she wasn't married. The first time I saw her she had a wedding ring on, with a great big diamond. He would meet her at the hotel about once a week around lunch time, and they would do it for about an hour. Then she would slip out the back entrance and go to a parking ramp a block away where she put her car. Fancy." "The car?" "The car too, but mostly her. Very expensive clothes, a lot of jewelry, big hair. The car was a cream-colored Mercedes convertible. Danny was there on some kind of business, and for the rest of the day, other men would come to his room, some with briefcases and some with nothing, but all kind of... not quite clean, you know? Like they didn't get a shower that day, just put on their clothes and combed their hair." "And?" "Danny knew that I knew what was going on. One day I'm on his hall when she leaves in a hurry, practically running. He came into a room I was cleaning and gave me twenty bucks to give his room a quick clean-up first. The man who was going to be there in about fifteen minutes was this woman's husband." "He told you that?" She smiled and shook her head. "No. He kind of gave me a sheep-face grin, like I was the one who caught him at something. A few minutes later I couldn't help knowing. It was the car. The man drove up to the front of the hotel with a car so the valet would park it, and it was the same one the girlfriend had used the week before. Anyway, I had just cleaned the room, got rid of everything that had her lipstick on it or smelled like her perfume." She frowned. "It was a good thing, too. Her husband was scary. He was maybe sixty, and he wasn't big, but he had eyes like one of those turtles at the zoo they tell you is four hundred years old-and how they found that out, I'd like to know. I mean, who was there? But you get the picture about him. He had three guys with him. Two came in a different car, but they were all wrong. You know how you can see somebody and something inside you says, This isn't normal? The three were all young-late twenties or thirties-and they were just wrong. They wore suits, but they didn't look like men who wear suits. They were all big, like weight lifters, and the suits looked like they all bought them in the same store on the same day, and it was yesterday. You see men like that, but not usually three of them." "So what happened?" "Nothing. They came and left in about a half hour. My friend Danny came out looking like he just got to the end of a tightrope, and smiled at me again. Next time he came to town, he offered me a job." "What kind of job?" "It was the same thing-cleaning. He offered me three times what I was getting at the hotel. There was this house in the Keys, and I was supposed to clean it. That's all." Jane sighed. "And it turned out there was more to the job than cleaning." "No," said Rita. "That was it." Jane decided not to make more guesses aloud. Maybe this Danny just figured that if he could bribe her to keep his secret, the husband could bribe her to reveal it. Rita said, "It was a beautiful house, on the ocean. The one who lived there was a nice old man. I was there for a year. It was great." "When did it stop being great?" "Three days ago. The old man went away for a little trip. My friend Danny took him to the airport at four in the morning. I figured this was a great chance to show off, so I spent the whole day giving the house a real cleaning. There's nothing in that place that can be polished or waxed or shined that wasn't that day. I didn't stop until about nine at night. I took a shower and fell asleep as soon as I was off my feet. The next thing I know, there are eight or nine big guys. They come into the house in the middle of the night-not like burglars. They were talking loud and stomping around like they were in a big hurry. For a second or two, I thought it must be firemen coming in because I left something plugged in and started a fire. Then three of them come into my room. They look wrong, like the ones at the hotel. They haul me out of bed. One starts asking me all kinds of questions-where the old man kept this, or that. I don't know any of the answers. When they figure that out and go down the hall, I go straight to the closet and start packing. One of them comes in again, and when he sees the suitcase, he flips it over on the bed and says I'm not leaving. I'm going with them." "Did he say where?" "He said 'To see Mr. Delfina.'" Jane's jaw tightened. "Do you know who that is?" "No. But it sounded like I was supposed to. You know: Mister." Jane stopped listening, but the girl didn't notice. "So I left the suitcase there on the bed where they could see it, and left my clothes and everything, and I put my money and ID and my mother's picture and stuff in my jacket pockets. After daybreak, most of them left. There were only three of them searching the closets and the attic, and one in the back yard. I went out the sliding door off the patio on the side, went over the wall, and walked to the bus stop. . . Jane watched the girl's lips move, and she knew she should be listening, or should tell the girl to stop because she would have to hear it all. The girl didn't know that she was thinking about the husband she loved so deeply, and that her eyes weren't focused on the kitchen window because she was concentrating on the story. She was looking at it because she was getting used to the idea that she might never see it again. The girl didn't know that she had said the only word that had needed to be said: Delfina. After a moment, Jane turned and switched off the burners on the stove and closed the window, then walked through the house checking the others. When she came back the girl was standing beside the table, her skinny arms now crossed on her chest so each hand gripped the opposite elbow as though she were protecting herself from the cold. Jane said, "Does anyone besides Celia Fulham know you came here?" "No," said the girl. "I never heard of you before yesterday, and I didn't get off the bus until I got to Celia." "What about after that? Where did you sleep last night?" "A hotel." She reached into her pocket, pulled out a pack of matches, and handed it to Jane. "I kept those so I'd know my way home." Jane's eyebrows knitted as she looked at the matchbook. The girl had called it home, and it was probably as much of a home as anywhere. Jane knew the hotel, and it wasn't the sort of place she had expected. It wasn't a cheap, obscure cluster of wooden buildings on a little-used highway. It was a big, respectable hotel. Jane returned the matchbook. "I know where it is. What name did you use to rent the room?" "My name?" It was a question. Jane needed to be sure. "You used your own name. Rita Shelford." "Well, almost. My mother called me Anita, and that's what it says on my birth certificate. Her name is Ann, and she decided I was like a miniature her. Really dumb, huh?" She didn't detect a reaction from Jane. "So that's what my credit card says too." Jane hid her uneasiness. "Have you checked out yet?" "No," said Rita. "I had to have some place to sleep in case I didn't find you. And I brought some stuff with me that I didn't want to carry around, because I might lose it." "Is it important?" The girl hesitated, confused. "Let me explain," said Jane. "If it's anything that money can replace, or that you can live without, it's not important. If finding it will tell someone who you are and where you went next, it's very important." The girl looked down at her feet, then at Jane. "It's important." Jane picked up her purse from the little cloakroom off the kitchen and checked to be sure her keys were in it. "Let's go get it and check you out." "Now?" The girl had sensed the urgency. "Now," said Jane. She stopped to scribble a note on the pad stuck to the refrigerator where she had written shopping lists. "Something came up. Dinner's ready on the stove. Just heat it. I'll call you later. Love, Jane." She considered writing "Don't worry," then put the note as it was on the dining room table. It was hard to imagine how lying to Carey would make it any easier for him to accept what she was going to have to tell him. Excerpted from Blood Money by Thomas Perry All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

1 There were still moments when the old life seemed to be on the verge of returning-there would be something out of place near the vanishing point of her sight or in the periphery. A bit of the past seemed to materialize for an instant, just long enough to catch Jane's eye and cause her to remember it, then recede again to become indistinguishable from the soft, familiar landscape. Sometimes it would be no more than a sound-a spring-loaded metallic click-scrape noise that turned out to be a door bolt slipping into its receptacle, but could have been the slide of a pistol cycling to snap the first round into the chamber.
Usually it would be a man who made her uneasy. A few times it had been men in crowds who had resembled other men from other times. Once it was only a stranger in a deserted mall parking structure who happened to be walking in the wrong place for too many steps-a bit behind Jane and to her right, where she would be most vulnerable to attack. The old habits of mind emerged again in a reflex. As she prepared her body to make the sudden dodge, her ears listened to his footsteps to detect a change in his position. Her eyes scanned the area around her to record its features-the shapes of parked cars she could put between them, small pools of bright light on the pavement to avoid, the railing she could roll over to drop to the next level down without running for the stairs. Then, as each of the others had done, this man changed his course, unaware that he had startled her, and walked off in another direction. Usually it had been men. Today, it was just a young girl. From a distance, the girl looked about fourteen: the thin, stringy blond hair that kept getting in her eyes; the narrow hips and bony chest; the clothes she wore that were a little too tight and too short, but made Jane wonder about her mother rather than about her. The girl first appeared on the Seneca reservation, and that was the first sign. She was too blond to be somebody's cousin from Cattaraugus or Allegany, and too young to work for the government, and Jane couldn't see any obvious explanation of how she had gotten there.
It was twelve miles from the Tonawanda reservation to the house in Amherst where Jane and Carey lived. Since Jane had begun to construct her new life she had spent more and more time on the reservation. First, she had visited friends and relatives, then let the friends talk her into going with them to meetings about tribal issues. At one of them she had volunteered to work in an after-school program to teach the old language to kids who had not learned it. All of them knew some words and phrases, and a few could make sentences, so the classes were easy and pleasant.
Jane had held her walks three times a week for over a year on the day when she first noticed the girl. Jane had waited on the high wooden front porch of Billy and Violet Peterson's house under the tall hemlock and watched for the school buses. When enough of the children had gathered, Jane had gone inside with them and talked. The simple, inevitable logic of languages was appealing and satisfying to her students: "ah-ga-weh" is mine, "ho-weh" is his, "go-weh" is hers, "ung-gwa-weh" is ours, "swa-weh" is yours, "ho-nau-weh" is theirs.
But a language carried implications and assumptions that had to be explained. There was a history even in its lapses and absences. A modern Seneca conversation was filled with borrowed words for the things that filled the children's houses-computers, television sets, microwave ovens.
Jane found herself taking the group out to walk the roads and fields and woods of the reservation to talk about the world. Whatever scurried across the path ahead of them or hung in the sky above or shaded them with its branches she could talk about without words from new languages.
Most of the time, if Jane saw a teenaged girl watching, she would wait until the girl's curiosity led her close enough, then invite her to join the walk. This girl appeared at the edge of a distant stand of sycamores, then disappeared. Jane saw her five times that day, but the girl never came closer. Jane couldn't help knowing at each moment the route the girl must be taking, and where she would appear next. That was part of what Jane had spent years training her mind to do. When she had seen the girl twice, she could follow the rest of her progress with as little conscious effort as a hunter needed to track the trajectory of a pheasant.
Jane asked her little band of linguists who the girl was, but each of them waited patiently for someone else to answer. Jane said, "If she comes to join us, I want everybody to make her feel welcome." But she didn't. The last time was when Jane got into her car at the Petersons' house. Jane considered driving a quarter mile, then quietly making her way back through the woods on foot to come up beside her for a talk. Jane lowered her head and pretended to search for something in her purse while she kept her eye on the rearview mirror. The girl was coming out of hiding to talk to a couple of Jane's students. Now that she could see her clearly, Jane began to feel a vague sense of discomfort.
There was a haggard, feral look around the eyes, and a set to the thin lips. It was a small-featured, precocious look that reminded Jane of the undercover policewomen they sent into high schools to impersonate students. Jane started her car and slowly pulled out onto the highway. If the girl was just a girl-maybe a friend of one of the kids on the reservation-then probably she would overcome her shyness by Monday. If she wasn't, then Jane had accomplished what she had needed to: she had memorized the face.
Almost certainly, this was just another time when Jane's old reflexes had been triggered by something innocuous. She glanced at her watch. She would have just enough time to make a few calls for the hospital fund drive and then get ready for dinner.
Jane finished setting the dining room table, then walked back into the kitchen to wash the crystal wine glasses by hand. She had noticed that there were water spots on them. If Carey had been here, she would have said it was because the last time they had been put away, she and Carey had both been suffering from the ill effects of having used them the night before. They only had wine with dinner on special occasions, and special occasions always ended the same way in this house. The wine glasses would end up somewhere in the bedroom, and the dishes would be left for morning.
As Jane rinsed the two glasses and reached for the towel, she saw in her memory her mother making the same motion in the small house in Deganawida. Her mother had probably been the happiest woman Jane had ever met. She had also been a fraud. She had decided at the age of twenty-or twenty-two, as Jane had corrected her after her death-who she wanted most in the world to be, and then spent the rest of her life impersonating that woman. It had been a very sophisticated, wise thing to do, and what had prompted her to do it had been the same five or six years that had given her the sophistication. Jane had grown up knowing little about her mother that was true. Her mother had been an expert at cheerful evasion, and when Jane would ask insistent questions, she was capable of lying with tenacity and consistency. What was true was that Jane's mother had somehow turned up in New York at the age of sixteen alone. The next five or six years were what she never spoke about. Jane had learned a little after she had grown up. Her mother had spent those years in the company of men who had money to share because they took it, and who, without thinking of it, offered her a certain safety because they inspired fear. At the end of the time, in a display of the preternatural cunning that people who live on the margins develop as a substitute for everything else, she had re-invented herself.
She had met Henry Whitefield, a worker in structural steel who traveled the country with a crew of men-three Mohawks and a couple of Onondagas from Grand River, and two other Senecas. Now that Jane was a grown woman, she knew that their chance meeting had been contrived. Her father, Henry Whitefield, had been too perfect a counter to the men her mother had decided to desert. He was tall, with skin like a copper penny and eyes like obsidian. He was scrupulously honest-even blunt-but most of all, he was manifestly not a man who could be dissuaded by any conceivable threat of harm. Men who walked on steel girders twenty-five floors above the street in uncertain winds were unlikely to be intimidated by anything they met on the ground. The fact that he traveled in the company of a whole crew of similar men would have reassured her too: she would have misinterpreted it at first, because it looked like the way her old companions behaved. But she had been a woman with acute instincts, and she had probably sensed that the misinterpretation was not entirely wrong: if he were in danger, the others would circle around him.
They were both long dead now, but they were not absent. They had taken up residence behind Jane's eyelids. Jane's mother had re-invented herself as Mrs. Henry Whitefield and lived the next eleven years in blissful imposture. She was the sort of wife who always looked as though she had just changed her clothes and fixed her makeup. She was the sort of mother who had time for everything and overdid the birthdays and indulgences. And she had tended Jane as though she were training her to rule a small kingdom.
Before Jane was born, her mother became conservative in dress and manner like other children's mothers, but it didn't disguise either the reasons why she had gotten into her troubles or why she had survived them. Henry Whitefield's best friend, Jake Reinert, who still lived next door to the old house in Deganawida, had once said to Jane that her mother had been "the single best-looking female human being not only to live in Deganawida," but, he had insisted, "the best-looking ever to pass through it by a nonflying conveyance." Then he had added wistfully, "It's a shame you didn't get more of her... disposition." During the horrible summer, six years after her father was killed, when her mother was dying of cancer, there had been a frantic period of talk. Her mother would palm her medicine and fight the pain so she could talk to her for hours at a time. She had been doing something she admitted was laughable-trying to tell her daughter everything she would need to know from the age of nineteen to the age of forty.
Their conversations were full of things almost said: "After I met Henry I was never unhappy another day of my life." For years afterward, Jane wondered at the foolishness of it, but she sensed that she had heard only part of it. Her mother had not told Jane that happiness was not something she had waited for, but something she had decided. Jane had carried the things her mother had said and done as though they were statements in another language, then slowly, one by one, she had realized that she understood them. In a way, she knew, she was emulating her mother. She had spent the early part of her adult life doing something that was dangerous-always illegal, and on the occasions when she made a wrong turn or a wrong guess, punctuated with bright flashes of violence. She had been a guide. People whose lives were in danger had found their way to her-first a young man she knew, and after that, a woman who simply knew someone she knew, and, later, strangers. She had moved them to other places, given them other names, and taught them how to live other lives. Then one day, she had agreed to become Mrs. McKinnon, and begun to make Jane Whitefield the last of the fugitives to disappear.
Since then she had devoted herself, just as her mother had, to being the woman she wanted to be. For the past two years, she had refused to allow herself to fall asleep at night without being able to say to herself, "This was a good day. I'm glad I didn't waste it." She was not ashamed of her premeditation. When Carey got home, she was going to demonstrate that her mother's wisdom had not been lost on her. Carey didn't have to go to the hospital tomorrow until evening rounds, and she had decided she was going to keep him up for most of the night. She went upstairs and began to fill the tub for her bath.