Jane Whitefield is a wife in comfortable circumstances, married to a surgeon and living in Buffalo, New York. A tall, striking woman with long raven hair, she leads a secret double life, fulfilling an obligation that comes to her from her Seneca ancestors, passed down to successive young girls over the ages. Since her junior year in college, Whitefield has served as a “guide” to help people in danger disappear.

“People who believed that they were about be murdered found their way to her. She conducted them away from the places where they were in danger to new places where nobody knew them. Then she taught them how to be new people.”

A Seneca myth tells how the world is kept in balance by twins – one who is always creating, the other always destroying. Whitefield strives to draw on the power of the first to outwit the intentions of the latter.

Thomas Perry’s thriller, “The Left-handed Twin,” opens with Whitefield finding a young woman who has broken into the house her grandfather left her, desperate to enlist Whitefield’s services. Sara Doughton, pretty, 22, from Los Angeles, is on the run from her former boyfriend who wants to kill her. Albert McKeith is a low-level player in the party scene in L.A. He’s a fixer, called upon by party planners to provide beautiful young women, drugs and whatever other appetites the host wants fed to ensure the party is a social happening.

Doughton has turned state’s evidence against her boyfriend in a murder trial. But he paid off several jurors, got acquitted and now seeks vengeance. While Doughton sleeps, Whitefield retrieves a pair of Glocks, $10,000 in cash, and blank identity documents from the basement. She wakes her charge at 4 a.m., and they head out in Doughton’s PT Cruiser. Later that morning, they realize they are being trailed. After they escape due to some impressive stunt driving from Whitefield, they find three tracking devices on the car. Whitefield places one underneath a parked truck with a gun rack, another on a car with a Marine Corps sticker, and destroys the third.

With Whitefield as her guide, Doughton survives Day One.


They narrowly survive another capture the next day before arriving at the home of an ally, who greets them with a shotgun. “Can’t be too safe,” Whitefield’s friend says. The woman and her partner spend the night developing three sets of new identification papers. Whitefield and Sara, now christened Anne Preston Bailey, again leave before daylight.

“Disappearing requires that you give up everything from your old life. But… it gives you a motive and a license to become who you really want to be,” Whitefield tells her. “Right now, all of our attention has to be on getting you to a safe place.”

Whitefield had helped over a hundred people disappear. She never takes payment, but accepts “presents” after those she’s helped settle into their new lives.  Over the years, she’s received a packet of blank birth certificates, packets of cash and three semiautomatic handguns without serial numbers. She’s lost only one man, from a careless mistake she made. He still comes to her in her dreams, never bitter, often offering her guidance when she faces troubling situations.

Back in L.A., McKeith has grown frustrated at his lack of success finding his girlfriend. Through a connection in his party circuit, he arranges a meeting with the leader of a Russian syndicate. The Russian listens, says he can’t promise anything, but ultimately decides to bring the full weight of his national network against the two fleeing women. Facing that, Whitefield’s skills as a guide and a Seneca warrior are supremely tested. She leads the Russian hunting party into Maine, luring them to the Hundred Mile Wilderness leading to Mount Katahdin.

Perry has written nearly 30 novels, and has won several awards. The writing in “The Left-handed Twin,” the ninth novel in his Jane Whitefield series, is tight and compelling. The novel’s pacing is quick, and Perry successfully weaves in the opposing elements of the Seneca Twins – Creator, Destroyer. It’s too bad he allows one of the vital climatic scenes to take place off stage.

Whitefield herself is an appealing character — compelling and resourceful, smart and focused, not given to angst or doubt. She is also devoted to her husband and her long-time friends. She’s a great character to join on an adventure. And what an adventure!

Frank O Smith is a Maine writer whose novel, “Dream Singer,” was named a finalist for the Bellwether Prize and a Notable Book of the Year in Literary Fiction by “Shelf Unbound.” Smith can be reached via his website: www.frankosmithstories.com.

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