Jane Whitefield

Created by Thomas Perry

“I’m a guide . . . I show people how to go from places where somebody is trying to kill them to other places where nobody is.”

JANE WHITEFIELD doesn’t think of herself as a private eye. She prefers to think of herself as a “guide.” But what she really is is a clever, tough and resourceful Native American woman who helps people who are in potentially life-threatening situations and uses her extensive resources to lead them “out of the world,” to help them extricate themselves from their problems and assists them with documentation and credentials so they can start new lives. She made her debut in the 1995 novel Vanishing Act, whose title pretty much sums up her speciality.

She is, simply, one of the most fascinating and compelling heroines in the entire crime fiction universe of the last twenty years or so, right up there with Lisbeth Salander.

Although her activities occasionally bend the law, she has a strict code of conduct and is very choosy about her clientele, and despite the fact that she’s based in Deganawida, New York, her cases take her all over the country. Although more in the suspense genre than mystery, Whitefield occasionally gets in scrapes in which detective work is necessary, and Whitefield’s Seneca heritage is also put to good use; the series is filled with all sorts of arcane knowledge about creating new identities, forging documentation, etc. etc.

But make no mistake — she can more than handle herself, and she can be ruthless in pursuit of her goals.


The Butcher’s Boy (1982) was Perry’s first book, and it promptly snatched up an Edgar for Best First novel, for what that’s worth, but it was the first salvo in what’s turned out to be a long and fruitful career, with 20 novels to his credit (so far), including Metzer’s Dog (1983), a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and Pursuit, a Gumshoe Award for Best Novel.

If you can’t get enough of Jane, be sure to check out Silence (2007), featuring retired LAPD detective P.I. Jack Till, who has also been known to help people disappear, and P.I. fans should check out Nightlife (2006), featuring Portland private eye Joe Pitt and police detective Catherine Hobbes, and Death Benfits (2001), which pairs rookie insurance claims data analyst Johnny Walker with grizzled freelance investigator Max Spillman.

Perry now lives in southern California.


  • “Picture the Scarlet Pimpernel looking like… Buffy Ste. Marie”
    — Otto Penzler (Oh, Otto…)
  • “… the best PI in fiction. And technically she isn’t even a PI.”
    Elizabeth Breck in The Five Most Realistic PIs In Fiction (2021, CrimeReads)


Respectfully submitted by Bryan English, with additional comments from Kevin Burton Smith.

Leave a Reply