"Among Thieves" (Minotaur), by John Clarkson
The brotherhood of criminals gets an incisive, gritty look in this highly entertaining launch of John Clarkson's new series.
"Among Thieves" shows the importance of unconditional loyalty and business acumen for those who operate outside the law. Yet not one iota of the romanticized ideal of honor among thieves seeps into the thriller as Clarkson focuses on the reality of criminal behavior.
The action accelerates from the first page as Clarkson leads this decidedly unmerry band of thieves through a labyrinth of betrayal, lies and shady businessmen.
James Beck runs an off-the-grid saloon in a "ramshackle building" that doubles as his headquarters in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. Beck has assembled a far-flung crew of ex-cons, including burglars, computer hackers and thugs, many of whom he met while in prison before his conviction for first-degree manslaughter was overturned.
Beck's friend Manny Guzman makes business personal when he wants to avenge his cousin Olivia Sanchez, the only relative who stuck with him while he was in prison. Olivia was a compliance officer at a Wall Street investment fund before she was attacked by Alan Crane, an out-of-control trader who broke her fingers and had her blackballed from the financial industry. Olivia says that she was trying to make sure that Crane, who has a couple of shady clients, wasn't breaking any laws. Olivia just wants back pay and the chance to work again; her cousin wants revenge.
Beck plans to get justice for Olivia while keeping himself and his crew as invisible as possible. But Beck makes a formidable enemy in Leonid Markov, a violent Russian arms dealer who is Crane's main client and who may have a link to the U.S. military.
Heroes are in short supply in "Among Thieves," but Clarkson's strong storytelling coupled with his affinity for complex characters makes Beck and his crew worth rooting for, especially when they are dealing with criminals far worse than they are.
Clarkson, whose previous novels include "And Justice for One," delivers a spirited start to what is sure to be a well-received series with "Among Thieves."