It was really interesting reading the first book of the Jane Whitefield series after having finished the 3rd and 4th entries. No, this is not how I usually approach a series of books like this. I had been under the mistaken impression when I picked up Shadow Woman
at a used bookstore that I had read the previous two books, and then I found the fourth book, The Face Changers
, before I found Vanishing Act
. Perry does a good job, though, of filling you in on the backstory without making the explication tedious or too obvious.
Copying what I wrote for Shadow Woman
Jane is a guide, a freelance "one-woman witness protection program" who helps people disappear, stay alive, and start new lives: a woman escaping a violent relationship; a child being spirited away from an abusive homelife; men and women who have crossed paths with some criminal enterprise or shadowy mega-corporation that subsequently wants them dead. Her services have become near-mythical - she never knows when someone is going to track her down by way of a rumor, or a slip of paper bearing her name and number that has been passed on from a friend of a friend of a friend, and need her help.
Jane is a member of the Seneca nation and was raised with a good deal of traditional lore and practices -- for instance, she offers gifts of tobacco and corn to nature spirits at a favorite lake as a way of thanking them for her survival and success, and reflects on the similarities and differences in how her ancestors might have reacted to the obstacles she encounters. A couple of reviews I've read have implied that she uses "native skills" to avoid pursuit or get away from someone on her trail, but that suggests she's some sort of wilderness survival savant, a throwback to the 18th or 19th century, which she's not: Jane lives very much in the modern age and understands the workings of law enforcement, national databases, cell phones, and other 21st century facts of life. Her skills rely on a learned mindset required by the work, not something she was taught in her upbringing or inherited from her native father. Her heritage informs how she chooses to live, rather than offering some sort of mystical, primeval advantage in evading the bad guys.
In this particular book, you do get to see Jane use her wilderness skills, which are not prominently featured in the later books I've read to date, but refreshingly, she has physical limits - she doesn't hike all day, track down her quarry, drag him back to face justice, and afterward look like she just stepped out of a beauty salon. You feel her exhaustion, and admire her ability to recognize when she needs to conserve her resources instead of pushing herself beyond them. She gets hurt, but she also keeps her wits about her instead of falling apart. She's a beautifully-developed character, and a wonderful demonstration of Mr. Perry's ability to create a whole, real person who lives an unusual life, instead of a superhero we can't identify with.
Through the following books, Perry also incorporates the changes in technology, and some of the obstacles created post 9/11, with additional requirements for travel documentation, etc. I'd love to know where he learned about the ins and outs of living a life "off the grid" - if this isn't the way it's done, I'd be surprised.