Thomas Perry focuses on the uncommon phenomenon of a female serial killer in his newest thriller, Nightlife. The focus of this book is Charlene Buckner (or Tanya Starling or Rachel Sturbridge—depending on which name she is going by at the time). Charlene, unlike many serial killers, is not a sexual deviant or one who enjoys seeing people suffer. She simply has come up with a way to solve her problems in life—by killing those who stand in her way.
After catching one of her cases in Portland, Oregon, Police Detective Catherine Hobbes follows Charlene around the country, investigating her numerous killings. Although she has other cases to follow, Catherine develops a fixation on Charlene and vows to capture her. However, Charlene has developed the same fixation on Catherine—and she won’t stop until she has solved this problem the same way she solves all her other problems.
Although Nightlife starts out interestingly, with an underworld figure named Hugo Poole and the murder of his cousin, it quickly becomes stale and repetitive. The narrative alternates chapters following Catherine and Charlene. The sections about Charlene are especially dry, and it becomes obvious rather early what Charlene’s pattern is, leaving the excitement and mystery of her actions to disappear early on. In addition, the intro involving Hugo Poole is dropped, making the prologue seem tacked on and disconnected.
The characters of Nightlife don’t fare much better. Charlene is bland and uninteresting, quite a feat for a serial killer. Her actions have little meaning, though the author does try to make them mean something by flashing back to her past. She doesn’t come across as very threatening or devious, making it difficult to fear for our heroine. Speaking of the heroine, Catherine is not the most interesting of people, either, though she does come across better than Charlene. She develops a love interest about halfway through the book, but even this is pretty boring; she has no chemistry with her lover and, though he starts out as a deep and interesting character, his background isn’t explored further and he becomes just another cardboard character.
While Thomas Perry’s writing is certainly not bad, it is uninspired and doesn’t do a whole lot to pull you into the story. The story itself could have really been unique and involving with its subject matter, but the writing and the characters pull it down into average mystery territory. If you are a fan of Thomas Perry, you will probably want to read this book just for the sake of continuity. If you have never tried Perry, however, you’ll probably want to look to a different author for a more involving and thrilling read.