McKeever (Common Sense for Today’s America, 2014) offers a pleasantly ambling thriller about a talented mechanic and criminal.
Harry Strickland has a massive dog named Max, a small house, and a longtime girlfriend named Sophia, and he seemingly values them in that order. He also enjoys painting and extreme sports, and is a skillful, if occasional, car thief. After nearly getting nabbed on one such heist, the 30-something Harry decides to aim higher and “up his game. Not just a little, but in a way to make himself independently wealthy in five years.” Aided by a thoughtful biker named John and two-bit hood named Ozzie, his usual partners, he methodically executes a series of random crimes, squirreling away the bulk of the proceeds for future use. But the fact that he values friendship over competence comes back to haunt him, thanks largely to Ozzie’s screw-ups. Soon there’s a comely FBI agent, Karyn Dudek, on Harry’s tail, as well as a psychotic, small-time crime boss named Fat Tony, whose arrogant son was accidentally killed when Harry’s trio ripped off his drug deal. So Harry decides to pit the two sides against each other. In this first book of a planned series, McKeever has created a likable crook in Harry, a man who thinks, rather than shoots, his way out of difficult situations. Still, the author leaves few of the supporting cast members standing for future volumes, which is disappointing. However, he offers an added wrinkle, as the book’s subtitle suggests: an offer to readers to figure out the location of Harry’s treasure for a real-life cash prize, with the amount dependent on book sales and the number of correct solutions. Setting aside this gimmick, McKeever has still come through with a yarn that will keep readers engrossed.
A promising debut crime novel about a Renaissance man-turned-reluctant criminal.