Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Monday, August 15, 2011

An Ordinary Decent Criminal, by Michael Van Rooy ($14.99) (c2005)

Now here's a refreshingly odd voice! Career criminal Montgomery Uller Haaviko has changed his name to Sam Parker, moved his young family to Winnipeg, and is trying to get a job in the straight world. As if.

As if the world would let him. Surely one of the points that Canadian author Michael Van Rooy makes is that it is difficult to go straight after being in prison for all sorts of crimes, large and small, and after using a young lifetime's worth of all sorts of nasty addictive substances.

As if it would be easy to break from thinking like a criminal, to not jones after those nasty substances, to have other people give you a break.

Monty/Sam is letting the past go, he is finding ways to deal with the anger that builds up inside him, and he knows if he screws up his wife, Claire, will take their baby, Fred, and he will never see them again. If he were lucky, she would leave him Renfield, their dog, and the mouse who lives in an aquarium.

Right off the bat, right after moving into their rented home in Winnipeg, burglars -- of all the nasty insults -- break into Sam's home at night. Using James Bond-like skills, he kills them all. Just in case, his naked wife has his back, armed with a baby and a bayonet.

Justified or not, excessive force or not, Sam now has a local mobster after him, and police sergeant Enzio Walsh thinks he has hit the criminal jackpot, never mind that Sam has done his time, shaken off all his drugs, and no longer associates with the criminal world. Now the new neighbors don't think too highly of him either. Pretty spectacular work for the first 24 hours.

"An Ordinary Decent Criminal" is a very clever, wry story of an unusual man. It's also a manual in how-to do many things criminal. (Don't try this at home!) I haven't heard such a compelling, unexpected voice since Josh Bazell's "Beat the Reaper." Van Rooy keeps the reader off balance; it is impossible to guess where he will take his story next. The author manages to craft a story that's always moving but that lauds the quiet moments in his protagonist's life. The story is often violent and tough, but has a graceful presence.

No comments:

Post a Comment