August 30, 2009

BOOKS: No Such Creature, Giles Blunt (2009)

After a series of dark police procedurals set in northern Ontario, Blunt changes things up with a relatively light story set (mostly) in the southwestern US.

Owen Maxwell is 17, and has spent the last few summers traveling cross-country with his uncle Max in a nicely tricked-out RV. They are employed as "gentleman thieves," and they are partial to pulling off their robberies at Republican fundraisers; as Willie Sutton once said when asked why he robbed banks, "that's where the money is."

When Max and Owen's associates begin to disappear, it seems as if they may have caught the attention of the Subtractors, a particularly vicious gang of thieves who rob other thieves. Their cruelty is legendary, and Max insists that they are mere myth; "no such creature," he says. But someone is killing and maiming their friends, and if Max and Owen can't figure out who, they may be in deep trouble.

Max and Owen are marvelous characters. Former Shakespearean actor Max is constantly dropping lines from the Bard, and looks forward to each new "show" that he and Owen put on as a chance to try a new costume and accent. Owen is beginning to long for a more normal life, and worries about how to tell Max that he wants to retire and go to college.

There is, of course, a beautiful young woman who may be less trustworthy than she appears, a crazed ex who's chasing her, and several clever heists to be pulled. There are some terrific comic moments, but Blunt also does a fine job of building tension throughout. Great fun.

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