Onyx reviews: Prince of Thieves
by Chuck Hogan
Publicists are promoting Chuck Hogan as the next Michael Connelly or Dennis
Lehane, but Hogan is very much his own writer, even if he may have strayed into
Lehane territory, the rough outer edges of Boston.
In this case it's Charlestown, famous among the F.B.I. as the per capita leader
in bank robberies. Doug MacRay is the titular prince of thieves, the leader of a
gang that has elevated bank robbing to a fine art. Nothing they do is
spontaneous. Every move is mapped out weeks, sometimes months, in advance. They
know personal things about the bank employees that can be used as leverage
during the crime. If a robber can tell a manager or a guard the name of his wife
and kids and where he lives, he is much less likely to cause problems.
The four robbers have been thrust together by circumstance and fate. Some of
them are friends; others are uneasy allies. Doug comes by his profession
honestly-his estranged father is currently serving time in prison and planning
his next big caper when he gets out.
Though the book details the gang's capers, it is really Doug's story. His mother
left when he was young and he blames his father for the family's break-up. He
was once drafted to a major league hockey team, but he blew his big chance when
he started a fight during a game-with a member of his own team. Alcohol entered
his life, and has been a huge factor ever since. He's now on the wagon, dry for
two years and faithfully attending AA meetings, struggling with his addiction
and anger every day. His cohorts have little sympathy for his situation and
regularly offer him booze, determined to keep him at their level.
The only thing he has to show for his crimes is an expensive car that he
continuously restores and rarely drives. He steals almost as much for the thrill
as for the money. His determination to improve his lot in life makes him
different from the others, who fear that one day he is going to break free from
their grip and move on to something else, leaving them behind. Probably bound
for prison when they push their luck a little too far.
Doug has done his jail time and he never wants to go behind bars again. However,
he enters a strange and dangerous phase when he becomes enamored of the
attractive bank manager who was the victim of their most recent robbery. He
staked her out before the crime and continues his vigilance afterward, observing
her delayed response to the traumatic experience. He orchestrates accidental
encounters with her and they start dating, although she has no idea that he was
involved with the robbery.
Complicating matters is the F.B.I. bank robbery expert on the gang's trail, who
is also attracted to the bank manager. The federal agent and Doug become
romantic rivals, though only Doug knows exactly who everyone is in this complex
triangle. Wanting nothing more than to pull himself out of his dead-end life,
Doug agrees to one last, big hit, a so-called marquee robbery, the kind they've
ordinarily shunned because the associated publicity and media scrutiny brings
Prince of Thieves is moody, pensive and angst-ridden. The characters
crackle with life, depth and unwise choices, and readers will feel their
individual senses of frustration and yearning as even the worst among them
strives to be the best person he can be.
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