Caught Stealing

By Charlie Huston

Place: Publisher & Year: New York: Ballantine Books, 2004

Genres: Thriller, crime thriller, suspense

Series: Hank Thompson series; 1

ISBN: 9780345464774

Intended audience: Adult

Number of pages: 240

Setting: Lower East Side, NYC (Manhattan)

Time period: 2002 or 2003

Plot summary: Hank Thompson has had a really bad day which has stretched into over a week of nightmares.  After passing out at the doctor’s office (to have a problem with his feet checked), he wakes up in a hospital with one less kidney.  Not only does he have to make a lifestyle change which leaves him unemployed, he also has an insanely large debt from being hospitalized without insurance.  To make matters worse, he has somehow gotten involved with a very nasty group of people – all from being a good neighbor and pet sitting a cat.

Appeal factors:

Pacing: A tad slower at the beginning compared to the Joe Pitt Casebooks (by Huston).  In spite of this, the pace is very fast; the second half of the book practically flies.

Characterization: The story is told in first person through Hank’s eyes and is populated mostly by very nasty, mean people (some of which are quite comical in spite of their demeanor).

Frame: Baseball, the playoffs, and the San Francisco Giants provide one frame for this book.  The seedier elements of NY’s Lower East Side provide another, while stealing and a whole host of criminals provide a third.

Story line: A very intense and violent story about a man with incredibly bad luck and no clue about how to lead his life.

Subject headings:

From PCPL:

Russian American criminals — New York (State) — New York — Fiction.

Organized crime — New York (State) — New York — Fiction.

Manhattan (New York, N.Y.) — Fiction.

Suspense fiction.

Similar authors: Duane Swierczynski, Victor Gischler, Michael Connolly

Personal notes: While I think Huston is an excellent writer and can really just vacuum a reader right into a story, this was definitely not a favorite of mine.  My main problem with this story was the main character.  Not only was Hank a loser, but he was a loser who refused to become anything but a loser.  He may have survived this story, but the first thing he does is to start to kill himself again.  I had more sympathy for Ed and Paris in this book than I did for Hank.  And I definitely think Bud deserves better.

On a different note, I find it very interesting that both the catalogers for PCPL and indexers for NoveList thought that it was significant to note the Russian gangsters in this story, but not the renegade cop (who has a much more significant role in the book).

Other (themes, diversity): Diversity – alcoholic, Northern Californian, New Yorkers, Black bartender, NY criminals (Chinese, Russians, Blacks, & Hawaiian or Samoan), renegade cop

Charlie Huston’s website

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