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Dead Aim: A Novel

Dead Aim: A Novel

2.7 4
by Thomas Perry

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“[Thomas Perry is] a master of nail-biting suspense.”
Los Angeles Times

In this explosive new novel from the Edgar Award–winning author of The Butcher’s Boy, Blood Money, and other novels of “dazzling ingenuity” (The New York Times Book Review), Thomas Perry gives us a thriller even more


“[Thomas Perry is] a master of nail-biting suspense.”
Los Angeles Times

In this explosive new novel from the Edgar Award–winning author of The Butcher’s Boy, Blood Money, and other novels of “dazzling ingenuity” (The New York Times Book Review), Thomas Perry gives us a thriller even more startling than his most recent bestseller, Pursuit. In Dead Aim, an unsuspecting man tries to help a young woman on the edge, and finds himself drawn into a lethal struggle with a deadly adversary--and then another, and another, and another.

Robert Mallon has lived for ten quiet years in affluent Santa Barbara, California, when an encounter on a beach with a mysterious young woman shatters his peaceful, carefully constructed life. Despite Mallon’s desperate attempts, he loses her, and he becomes obsessed with discovering why. He hires detective Lydia Marks to uncover the secrets of this stranger’s life, and what they learn propels them into a terrifying underworld of sinister secrets and deadly hatreds. Set against Mallon is the master hunter Parish, a man with an expert understanding of evil, who preys on rich people’s desire for dominance and revenge.

Thomas Perry’s writing is “as sharp as a sushi knife,” said the Los Angeles Times about Blood Money, and the same can be said about this new novel by the author hailed as “one of America’s finest storytellers” (San Francisco Examiner). With Dead Aim, Thomas Perry gives us another brilliant novel of spine-tingling suspense.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Though propelled by a tantalizing premise-the investigation of a peculiar suicide-Perry's latest eventually droops under the weight of flat, unengaging characters and predictable plotting. Robert Mallon, a wealthy land developer, has retired early to the gentle climes of Santa Barbara. While he is gazing at the ocean one morning, a young woman, Catherine Broward, calmly walks into the water and disappears under the surf. Mallon rescues her, takes her home, and over the next several hours, the two develop a bond of sorts. Broward won't tell Mallon why she tried to kill herself, but insists she's now OK. The next day, she is found dead in a local park from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Mallon, crushed, wants to know why. He quickly finds several clues-a failed romance, an old murder-yet the most promising lead takes him far into the hills above town, to a self-defense training school, where Broward had spent a month, at great expense, gearing up for some sort of confrontation. On closer inspection, Mallon discovers that the school teaches clients not only how to ward off attackers but how to engage in an ultimate form of excitement-thrill kills. Perry's 13th novel (after the Edgar-winning The Butcher's Boy; etc.) again proves a showcase for his considerable talents-taut prose, finely crafted scenes, solid research. Yet his initially promising plot winds up following the most commonly traveled grooves, concluding with Mallon, hardly a skilled warrior, taking on half a dozen armed, battle-trained killers. It is equally disappointing when, along the way, Perry either kills off or writes out several characters who seem more intriguing than the bland Mallon. Agent, Robert Lescher. 5-city author tour. (Dec. 17) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
A retired land developer and millionaire, Robert Mallon has been living peacefully in Santa Barbara, CA, for a decade. Then one day on the beach, he meets a young woman whom he saves from suicide. A few hours later, however, she shoots herself, and Robert feels that he should have done more to help her. Guilt drives him to hire his old partner and now a private investigator, Lydia Marks, to help him uncover what motivated Catherine Broward. They find that her last year included time spent at a California ranch specializing in teaching rigorous self-defense. A visit to the ranch is soon followed by an attempt on Robert's life, and he finds himself pursued over Southern California. Perry, an Edgar Award winner and creator of the Jane Whitefield mystery series, never writes the same book twice, and here he chooses a theme that most Americans would probably find implausible. However, in his capable hands the plot becomes totally engrossing and believable. The reader remains gripped in unending suspense and a shocking denouement. For all fiction collections. Jo Ann Vicarel, Cleveland Heights-University Heights P.L., OH Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An unusually determined suicide pulls a retired Santa Barbara contractor into a ring of trained killers in this newest stand-alone from the chronicler of the Butcher Boy (Sleeping Dogs, 1992, etc.) and Jane Whitefield (The Face-Changers, 1998, etc.). Sitting on the beach one morning, Robert Mallon is astonished to see a young woman walk calmly into the water and disappear. He pulls her out and revives her, but she refuses to go to a hospital, though she does agree to come to his house, where she promptly and thoroughly seduces him, ceasing only to ask him to pick up some takeout for dinner. When he returns, she’s gone, and two days later, he reads of her second, successful suicide attempt. Who was this Jane Doe, and why was she so determined to die when she had youth, beauty, money, and--as Mallon and his old friend, p.i. Lydia Marks, soon learn--a sister who cared deeply about her? Traveling as far as Pittsburgh and New York, the conveniently wealthy and inquisitive Mallon links the suicide to the execution-style murder a year earlier of Los Angeles hunk Mark Romano, and ultimately back to the wilds of California, where the Safe-Force School of Self-Defense offers a $40,000 month-long course in martial arts, firearms, and all the other skills a few well-heeled clients need to know to protect themselves from bodily harm, and perhaps to inflict a little harm themselves. Once Safe-Force founder Michael Parish gets wind of Mallon’s interest in his enterprise, the story slips into the foolproof cat-and-cats groove Perry’s shown off in Pursuit (2001) and a dozen earlier nerve-shredders. It’s hard to believe Mallon’s well-financed curiosity in the first half of this adventure, and the secondhalf is simply superior action-film fare with a body count to match. But nobody who starts this tense, improbable tale will put it down half-finished.
From the Publisher
"Perry succeeds with Dead Aim on all fronts. It's both chilling and absorbing, the right mix in a thriller." —-The New York Daily News

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
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Read an Excerpt


The shot was an explosion that spewed a shower of bright sparks from the pistol's muzzle into the darkness and kicked the barrel upward, but the arm of the shooter quickly straightened to level it again. The shooter fired the second and third shots into the lighted interior of the car, and the late-night silence returned. After a few seconds, crickets began to chirp tentatively again from nearby yards.

There were three holes punched through the rear window of the car, and even from his vantage across the alley behind the shooter, Parish could see that Mark Romano's head had been pounded forward, and the windshield had been sprayed nearly opaque with his bright red blood.

Parish watched as one of the women gently but firmly placed her arm around the shooter's left shoulder and took the gun from the right hand. The waiting escape car rolled up and within a few heartbeats the shooter had been hustled into the back seat. Parish leaned in to speak softly to the driver. "Go ahead. We'll finish up here."

The car moved off down the alley with its lights still out. Parish walked into the garage, stopped by the side of Romano's car, and bent to stare into the still-lighted interior at the bloody face to be sure there was no possibility of life. He reached across the body to the dashboard and took the remote control unit. He closed the car door, stepped out of the garage, and pushed the remote control button to bring the door down to cover the scene.

As he turned, Spangler emerged from the darkness at his side and pointed at the back of a house down the alley. "There was a face in that window for a second."

"Better take care of it before we go," whispered Parish. "They haven't had enough time to get the shooter out of the area."

The two men walked quickly and silently up the alley. They were both tall, but they moved toward the house with a surprising ability to blend into their surroundings, passing through each shadowy space beside the garages, moving along rows of garbage cans to make their shapes get lost to the eye among the many others in the dark alley.

The house was two lots down from Mark Romano's-they had waited for a night when the nearest neighbors were away-so the face could not have seen much from that window, beyond the six-foot cinder-block wall that separated the alley from the yard. Parish and Spangler moved to the wall, barely glancing at each other, as though they had done this so many times that each knew the steps, neither needing to check where the other was.

In seconds Parish was up and over the wall into the yard behind the house, and Spangler had made his way along the fence beside it. As Spangler went over the fence and dashed up the low steps toward the kitchen door, he could hear Parish breaking the glass in the window at the back of the house, and he hit the door with his shoulder before the musical sound of glass hitting the floor inside the house had stopped.

The door flew inward, cracked into the wall, bounced, and swung back, but Spangler was already across the small kitchen, his gun drawn, slipping up the hallway toward the back bedroom at a run. He went low, held his pistol ahead of him, and stepped into the doorway.

He saw a man in boxer shorts standing inside the room leaning against the wall, both hands on an aluminum baseball bat, waiting for Parish to try to climb in through the broken window beside him. Spangler fired once into the man's chest as Parish fired twice through the window into the room.

Spangler's head spun so he could see what Parish had shot. It seemed at first that it was just a lump in the blanket, but then Spangler saw the telephone cord leading from the nightstand under the covers. He tore the blanket and sheet aside to reveal the body of the woman, the telephone receiver still clutched in her hand.

He moved to the window, pulled the sash up, and stepped back to let Parish climb in. Parish glanced at the man on the floor as he hurried to the bed where the woman lay. He snatched the telephone from her fingers, put it to his ear, and smiled as he set it in its cradle. "Dial tone. She hadn't gotten the call off yet."

"Close, though," said Spangler. He turned to go.

"Not yet." He nodded at the dead man below the window. "That bat isn't the right size for him, is it?"

Spangler whispered, "Kids?"

"Better check."

Spangler followed Parish into the hallway, mirroring his rapid, efficient movements. Parish stopped at each doorway on the left, put his head inside, turned to look both ways, then moved on. Spangler took the doorways on the right. Parish stopped at the end of the hall, where the door was closed. He tried the handle, found that it would not turn, and nodded to Spangler. Then he stepped back and kicked.

As the door flew open, Spangler stepped in after it. He decided that the boy crouching on the floor at the far end of the bunk bed must be nine or ten, and the little sister he had pushed behind him would be around five. Parish and Spangler seemed to have the same thought, which was that they must make use of the children's shock and immobility before they tried to run or crawl under something, as children often did. Both men centered their shots in the children's foreheads.

Parish and Spangler left the room and continued up the hallway. It did not make sense to go out the way they had come. The only car in the alley had been the one that had been used to spirit the shooter away, and there was nothing left near Romano's body that they needed to think about any further. They walked across the small, drab living room, carefully avoided a skateboard that had been left near the front door, slipped the latch, and stepped outside. They made their way around the corner to the car they had parked there, and Spangler drove them up the street toward the freeway entrance.

Forty-five minutes later, when they were driving north beside the ocean, Parish opened his window and tossed the remote control for Mark Romano's garage door opener out onto the pavement. The little plastic case broke apart with the impact and the pieces bounced a few times, cartwheeling and then sliding to a stop a few feet apart in the right lane, where they would be crushed to bits by the next car, or the next, or the one after that.

From the Hardcover edition.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
“Perry succeeds with Dead Aim on all fronts. It's both chilling and absorbing, the right mix in a thriller.” —-The New York Daily News

Meet the Author

Thomas Perry won an Edgar Award for The Butcher’s Boy, and Metzger’s Dog was a New York Times Notable Book. Vanishing Act was chosen as one of the 100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association, and Pursuit was a national bestseller. Perry lives in Southern California with his wife and two daughters.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Dead Aim 2.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a huge Perry fan, have read them all and looked forward eagerly to this latest effort by Thomas Perry. Maybe I expected too much, but I was terribaly disappointed in this book. His writting and use of our language, especially from a mystery writter, continues to be top notch. The plot of this story made me feel as if I was walking through Jello...Sorry, Thomas, I'll still buy your next book. Sincerely, LList.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was one of those books that when you get done reading it you say to yourself 'Why did I waste my time?' I had to skim over the last fifty pages because it was simply a poorly written book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a dedicated fan of Thomas Perry's. Especially since I also grew up near him in Western New York and attended Cornell University. I eagerly watch for each book he puts out. However, I was very disappointed in "Dead Aim." This story seemed base compared to the usually exciting, mind-twisting tales he weaves. I'm still a huge fan but I did feel let down by this story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago