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Poison Flower (Jane Whitefield) by Perry, Thomas (2013)

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  • Mysterious Press (1601)
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Review Text

  • By michael a. draper on February 2, 2012

    Jane Whitefield has made her compassion for the less fortunate an advocation. She makes a living by helping people disappear. In the past, she has helped women trying to escape from abusive situations and helped others who were being hunted by killers.James Shelby was framed for his wife's murder and now the people who set him up want him dead. He's in prison but called to testify about a case. While awaiting his trip to the courthouse, Jane stages his escape.However, she's caught by the people who are after Shelby. In attempting to escape from them, Jane is shot. She's taken to a secluded spot where they think they can force her to reveal what she knows.Jane not only must try to withstand their punishment but she learns that she may be auctioned off to wish to get their revenge against her for helping someone escape their grasp.The author knows how to tell a story and has a wonderful talent for describing situations that some unfortunate people get into. We feel sympathetic for these people who are facing cruel situations that didn't result from their actions.Jane is a unique character in that she brings such empathy into a story. She's not a super hero but is able to put herself into the position of the victim and use her skills to aleviate the situation.The story moves along swiftly and is filled with excellent adventure as Jane tries to save herself and the people she's protecting. She also shows her normal side in wanting to finish the case to get back to her husband and maybe, to start a family.This is a very enjoyable story demonstrating the strength of one woman and what good things a person can do for another. It is a lesson for us all.

  • By Julia Walker on February 19, 2012

    I wonder if Thomas Perry regrets marrying Jane Whitefield to her white-bread doctor. Since she has become Mrs Dr Carey McKinnon she has vowed to cease her disappearing acts, something that would be the end of the series. In the last 3 novels, Jane's ambivalence and guilt take up most of the psychic room in the narrative.They don't, however, crowd out the violence, which increases geometrically with each volume.In the early novels, Jane kills or maims in self-defense only. This gradually changes to killing to avoid risk -- killing prophylactically, as it were. And in this novel, that killing goes wholesale.At first this seems to be a narrative of Jane's ability to endure pain -- another element of the novels that sounds good/positive (strong hero, and all that) but an element which begins to dominate the narratives. Then the narrative takes a big jump and Jane is back in the Adirondacks, showing us a higher-tech version of the Seneca skills she uses to save herself in _Vanishing Act_, the first novel. But this isn't self-defense, except in the broadest general terms.These are executions.It must be very hard to write a thriller with a tough woman hero. If the author makes her a girl, people like me will complain. If the author makes her too blood-thirsty, people like me will complain. But, to be fair, I'm complaining about Jane's development, not Jane as she was at the dawn of the series. "What?" you say. "Aren't characters supposed to develop?"Yes, indeed they are. But they are supposed to develop in ways which -- if not necessarily logical -- will allow a constant reader to sustain willing suspension of disbelief. But Perry has Jane increasingly at odds with her own values. Yes, it's a Seneca virtue to protect your family, your people. But the runners she protects aren't her family -- unless one constructs "family" so broadly that the bad guys must be included, too.The problem is coherence. Perry endows Jane Whitefield with a complicated moral compass but he gives us only a glimpse or two at it. If he wants a hero this complex, he needs to play fair, spill some more ink, and let us see how the whole ethical universe fits together.This isn't a bad book or a bad series, but it could be so much more than OK -- it could be great.

  • By J. Moran on April 11, 2012

    Thomas Perry is a well known and successful writer and the Jane Whitefield series is one of his most popular. It has been a number of years since the last Whitefield book, and I found this new one to be a major disappointment. It gave me the impression of being a hastily produced potboiler. The writing often fails to convince, let alone thrill.First, the characters in the book are not believable. The early Whitefield novels had realistic and fully delineated characters. Not so in this book. The characters here are 100% cardboard, lack individuated personalities and are virtually impossible to tell apart. Even Jane herself is essentially cardboard here. Speaking broadly, the major characters in the novel are complete ciphers except for being good guys or bad guys. Not surprisingly, interactions and exchanges between and among such stereotyped characters are often flat and uninteresting. The only emotions that are convincingly and graphically portrayed are those associated with cruelty, torture and sadism, especially in the scene wherein one of the thugs tortures Jane for information, a scene that is both graphic and detailed.Second, significant plot points defy credulity. I cannot meaningfully explain this here because of the high risk of spoilers. I will say only that the supposedly experienced and hardened villains in this book set a new standard for complete incompetence at basic thuggery (such as simple prisoner security), lack of planning, underestimation of an enemy, lack of foresight and inexplicable measures and omissions that do not further their ostensible objective but can only help their enemy. This incompetence is indispensably central to Jane's attempts to elude/escape from them and to fight back.When the thugs take steps for self-preservation, they are few, elementary and foreseeable. Their tactics in going after Jane seem limited to frontal attack, without reconnaissance and well advertised before launched, when they know that Jane escaped them previously and should know that she has possibly had time to prepare for their coming. In this book, evil is not merely banal but perishingly stupid as well.In summary the book has lackluster writing, cardboard characters, inept criminals, plot holes and a heroine who amounts to a superhero. The book cannot withstand any scrutiny. For such an accomplished author this is a startlingly bad effort.


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