More than fulfilling the promise of Huston's 2004 debut, Caught Stealing, this remarkably assured hard-boiled caper has rapid-fire pacing, dead-on dialogue and a beleaguered protagonist who just can't get a break. Former minor league baseball player Hank Thompson barely escaped with his life at the end of Caught, making off with $4 million of the Russian mafia's money. Several years later, he's running a breakfast place in the Yucatan, down the shore from his secluded hut. When a Russian bounty hunter shows up asking questions, Hank Fed-Exes his bankroll to a friend in Las Vegas and sneaks north across the border. When not trying to kill him, two surf bum criminals convince him they're allies; as the book reaches its climax, Hank finds himself dodging a memorable cast of lowlifes, would-be mobsters and scammers. Huston takes care with Hank, making him funny and sympathetic (even as he reminds us that he has killed six people in New York), and giving even cardboard situations and slight exchanges charge. (One of the surfers on a pair of boots: "Kind of metallish for my taste, but fuck it, we're incognito, right?") This second installment of a planned trilogy will leave readers anxious for more.
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*Starred Review* After 2004's exhilarating Caught Stealing--in which a regular schmo emerges from a bloody war between bad NYPD cops and Russian mobsters with $4.5 million in stolen cash, all because he agreed to watch a shady neighbor's cat--it's understandable that Hank Thompson just wants to fade away. Cat still in tow, Hank has built a beach hut in Mexico and finally stopped boozing. But his contact in the States warns him the heat's back on, and a young Russian backpacker shows up full of questions. Hank's ready to buy some peace, until threats against his family force him to make a desperate dash for California. There, he plunges into a kaleidoscope of violence spun by Mexican smugglers, Russian toughs, corporate thugs, Vegas drug dealers, and cops of every stripe. Even the guy who sells Hank a used car recognizes him from TV and tries to mete out some lucrative vigilante justice. Imagine The Blues Brothers as directed by Sam Peckinpah. But Hank demonstrates an almost-supernatural knack for survival, and one can't help but root for him even as he brings mayhem into the lives of family and friends. In this second entry of a promised trilogy, Huston also engineers one of the most dramatic protagonist personality changes ever seen in series crime fiction. Is he sure he wants to drop Hank after only three chapters? Frank Sennett
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Paperback edition.