Caught Stealing by Charlie Huston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
They say that the second book in a series is usually not as good as the first one. Well, this does not hold for Charlie Huston’s series about Hank Thompson. I happened to have read Mr. Huston’s “Six Bad Things” before “Caught Stealing” and I find the second novel significantly better. Don’t get me wrong, “Caught Stealing” is still a very good book; it is just not as outstanding as the second book in the series.
We learn the details of how Hank Thompson became a fugitive pursued by various parties, including the police and the Russian mafia. We learn how Hank, basically a good guy, who dearly loves his parents and cares for a friend’s cat, accidentally became a murderer. The funniest aspect of the novel is the inevitability of the escalation of “bad things” – beatings, torture, and murder. Very much like in the second novel in the series, the plot is almost entirely about all the bad guys chasing Hank because he has (or they think he has) certain items.
Mr. Huston’s writing is very funny, perhaps not as hilarious as in “Six Bad Things”, but the book still made me laugh frequently. However, if you do not enjoy sentences like “Bolo opens the rear door and climbs in with a bottle of Formula 409 and a roll of paper towels and starts cleaning up Red’s brains”, this might not be a book for you. (Tarantino’s Mr. Wolf comes to mind.) Or what about pulling out surgical staples, slowly, one by one, from the kidney removal operation as a form of torture? Truly funny!
The train scenes towards the end of the book are outstanding; “The French Connection” movie comes to mind. The entire book is tremendously cinematic (but converting it to a movie would most likely kill the humor).
On the cover of “Caught Stealing” Harlan Coben, a famous author, screams his praise of the novel: “Wow! Brutal, visceral, violent, edgy and brilliant.” I rarely agree with the often idiotic advertising quotes, but this one has merit. It is a brutal, visceral, violent, and edgy novel. It is not brilliant, but still pretty good.
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