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CAUGHT STEALING by Charlie Huston


by Charlie Huston

Pub Date: May 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-345-46477-X
Publisher: Ballantine

Blood in buckets, bodies in heaps. But the dialogue’s fresh, and the pages turn in a superviolent debut.

With any luck at all, Hank Thompson might have been a major-leaguer. A “four-tool player,” that’s what the scouts covering his high school games called him: “bat, glove, arm, and legs.” It was the leg part that did him in. Sliding into third in the regional championships, he shattered his ankle and his career in the same awful moment. Flash forward a number of melancholy years. Hank is a New York City bartender with aching feet, a developing booze problem, and not much razzmatazz left to his future—until the day Bud, the charismatic cat, enters his life. Not that Hank is particularly fond of cats; it’s just that he’s got this nice-guy sheen to him, which, to people like Russ Minor, Bud’s owner, makes him the stuff of patsies. Russ’s father is dying, he swears, and he desperately needs a cat caregiver, just for a few days. The next thing Hank knows, he’s suffering a hellish beating that he fails to connect to Bud, the charismatic cat. What’s clear, however, is that the two large thugs involved are searching for something they think Hank can lead them to. And they’re right, though it takes him awhile to locate the key hidden under Bud’s blanket. Turns out it’s the key to a storage box with a lot of stolen loot stashed in it. Turns out that hard guys—on both sides of the law—are claiming rightful ownership. And, finally, it turns out also that Hank is nobody’s patsy after all, and that never again, no way, no how, does he intend to be caught stealing.

Impressive debut, though not for the squeamish: a torture sequence, unsparingly clinical, lasts the better part of twenty pages.