Friday, October 31, 2008

NO SUCH CREATURE by Giles Blunt (2008)

I'm a fan of Blunt's John Cardinal mysteries like BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS, FORTY WORDS FOR SORROW and BLACKFLY SEASON, so was keen to pick up his new book, in which he takes a break from the gripping suspense that defines the series.

In NO SUCH CREATURE we follow a gregarious thief named Max and his great-nephew, Owen, as they travel across the American southwest in search of robbery jobs where they fancy themselves modern day Robin Hoods, stealing only from the wealthy Republicans in their wake. Max is a washed up actor with a flair for accents and disguises who loves to quote Shakespeare even as he's getting his short-term hostages to add their Rolexes, diamonds and emeralds to his goody bag. Owen, is his orphaned nephew, who dreams of enrolling at Juilliard in NYC and training to be a real actor.

Out of deference to a fellow thief nicknamed the Pontiff whom he met at "Oxford" (Max's euphemism for incarceration), Max looks out for John Paul's daughter Sabrina on his way through Las Vegas. She ends up joining Max and Owen for a while, and just as they feel comfortable trusting her with their secrets, she takes advantage of them and splits to pursue her own American Dream.

There is a sweetness to the telling that is new to Blunt's books, with the grace, compassion and emotion I already expect when I pick up one of his novels. Reading NO SUCH CREATURE is a heartening way to pass the time, keeping company with Max and Owen, in spite of their flaws.

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