Book Review: The Burglar by Thomas Perry

The Burglar

Thomas Perry

January 8, 2019

The Burglar from New York Times bestselling author Thomas Perry is a new thriller about an unlikely burglar―a young woman in her 20s―who realizes she must solve a string of murders, or else become the next victim.

This is the first book I’ve read by Thomas Perry. He’s an award-winning author with a ton of titles under his belt, so I have a lot of catching up to do but getting to know the oddly delightful Elle Stowell was a fun intro to his work! Elle Stowell is a diminutive thief based in California that cases houses by posing as a runner. Once she finds a house that looks interesting, she goes on the hunt.

There was some esoteric knowledge to being a burglar—broad areas that took some thought and skill. There was choosing the house, entering the house, and finding the items that were worth taking. Elle Stowell was good at all three.


Elle was strong but small, so she couldn’t carry a seven-foot television out of a house if she’d wanted to. It didn’t matter because the real prizes were all small and dense—money, watches, jewelry, gold, guns, and collections—and usually they were to be found in or near the master bedroom suite. Some of the things she found in bedroom hiding places that fit this description were revealing but not for her to take: secret cell phones for calling lovers, second sets of identification, bugout kits, or drugs.

Elle prides herself on the knowledge she’s accumulated about the habits of rich people. Cash is her main goal, because moving other items, such as jewelry and guns, is dangerous and time-consuming since she tends to travel well out of her comfort zone, and deal with some very unsavory people, to move the merchandise. She also has a group of girlfriends that know what she does, and although they’re a motley crew, they have each other’s backs. After all, she tends to get out of scraps easily, pushing the concept of good luck to the limit.

For those tempted to judge Elle’s way of making a living right out of the gate, a depressing description of her upbringing might temper that a bit. She’s been on her own from the age of 14 and her childhood up to that point had been an unhappy one, to say the least. Elle’s a scrapper and a survivor, and she does have a sense of honor, even if it’s a bit twisted. For example, she replaces a glass window pane of a house after she robs it solely for the purpose of keeping bugs and rodents out. I had to laugh at the thought of the homeowners returning home to find they’d been cleaned out, but that the burglar had been considerate enough to not leave the house open to the elements.

It’s a living, if a precarious one, but Elle never could have imagined what she’d find in her next conquest: a house full of fine art, which turns out to be the home of a high-end art dealer. After discovering a strange, rather creepy door that stands out, she can’t help but open it, though instantly she undoubtedly regrets it. Inside are the bodies of two women and one man, all shot in the head. It looks like they previously had been engaged in a bit of extramarital fun (each woman had a wedding ring). Normally, Elle would hastily flea from the scene, but unfortunately, a camera set up on a tripod gives her pause. Not wanting to get caught, but also wanting to do the right thing, she takes the camera, erases the few moments when she stepped into the frame, and returns the camera to its tripod. When she’s followed from the scene by a black SUV, she’s not sure what’s she’s gotten tangled into. Is the killer after her? Is it the police? She manages to shake her tail, but it puts her on high alert, and after her friend, Sharon offers a getaway to Australia, Elle jumps at the chance and sets about unloading some of her spoils for cash.

Unfortunately, the getaway plan is bust. Just prior to leaving for the trip, Elle finds Sharon dead. It’s a devastating blow for Elle, and she blames herself, but more importantly—it’s a wake-up call.

Now Elle is in a cat and mouse game with a ruthless killer, and for the first time, she may be way in over her head.

Will you have a suspend disbelief at times to fully immerse yourself in Elle’s adventures? Probably. Will you care? Probably not. This fast-paced read is just too much fun. Perry doesn’t waste time on filler, and you’ll learn more than you ever thought you would on home burglary.

This is the perfect twisty weekend read starring a unique protagonist. This reads like a standalone, but I can’t help hoping we’ll hear more from the intrepid Elle.

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