Monday, October 15, 2007

"Caught Stealing" by Charlie Huston

OK, this guy totally gets my seal of approval for tight, suspenseful thrillers. If you've been keeping up with this blog, you'll remember his vampire books "Already Dead" and "No Dominion". I thought maybe it might be worth it to try some earlier stuff, and man, I was not disappointed in the least.

"Caught Stealing" is a book about exactly that - a theft of grand proportions. Our hero, Henry "Hank" Thompson, knows nothing about it when the book opens, only that he's been beaten up by some pros for no known reason. Not only that, but it soon leads to him losing a kidney, something that is just going to make his life that much worse in the next week or so.

Hank has been asked by his neighbor Russ to cat-sit. Hank isn't great with animals but Bud, the cat, seems to be pretty mellow and Russ begs very well. Shortly after that, while at his bartending job, Hank is attacked by some Russians who comment on his mixology abilities. Then it's the trip to the hospital to take out said kidney, followed by more visits from various bad guys, including a dirty cop. The only thing that Hank knows is that he found something in the bottom of Bud's cat carrier, an envelope which felt like it had a key in it. Being the cautious and very paranoid sort, Hank didn't open the envelope. But for much of the book, he also can't remember where the envelope is - seems he might have given it to a friend of his at the bar when he was rip-roaring drunk. Yeah, not very smart after losing a kidney, but Hank's been having a very rough time; giving up booze isn't easy when you're being stalked and beaten by thugs for reasons unknown to you.

Eventually Hank finds out why everyone is after this key. Not only that, but his life continues a downward spiral, something that doesn't look to have any good way out. Hank has to fight for his life and make some tough choices, when all he really wants to do is watch a damn baseball game.

Like I said, Huston is an awesome writer, one I'm eternally grateful to find. He keeps the story simple but action-packed. His hero, Hank, is fantastically flawed, yet still a good-enough guy that you root for him to overcome all obstacles. Even better? This is the first in a trilogy about Hank, so I have two more books to read. YES!!

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