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Prince of Thieves    by Chuck Hogan order for
Prince of Thieves
by Chuck Hogan
Order:  USA  Can
Scribner, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* *   Reviewed by Rashmi Srinivas

The blue-collar neighborhood of Charlestown, Boston, once famous as the breeding ground of bank robbers, is slowly being overtaken by yuppies with their fancy new cars and homes. Yet four men, friends who grew up in this tough neighborhood, still uphold the old ways. At a bank robbery, they take branch manager Claire Keesey hostage, but later release her unharmed. This draws the attention of FBI agent Adam Frawley, assigned to the Boston Bank Robbery Task Force.

Even as Frawley concludes that Claire's innocent of collaboration with the robbers, he can't help but be attracted to her. Little does he know that bank robber Doug MacRay - the brains behind the tough, tight-knit crew of thieves, and their recovering-alcoholic of a 'Prince' - has also fallen in love with Claire. Without realizing that Doug was the bank robber who turned her life and career upside down, Claire begins to reciprocate his feelings. Question is, can Doug break away from his ingrained criminal life to make a new one with Claire? And even if he does, will a vengeful Frawley and Doug's outraged fellow-thieves let him go scot-free?

Powerful, poignant and realistic are the words that come to mind after finishing this novel, which reads like a slick Hollywood noir movie script. The plot picks up speed from page one and never lets up. Though there are thrilling descriptions of bank robberies and police chases, it's the intense, multi-layered emotional drama unfolding within the pages that held my attention. As cop and thief both fall for the same woman, a tense love triangle develops that's as compelling as it is damned. Doug MacRay is a particularly interesting character. A good boy gone bad, he's trying to beat alcoholism and criminal genes, and refuses to give up hope despite overwhelming odds.

Hogan explores in detail the tortured inner musings and life choices of a variety of conflicted characters - while absorbing, this introspection tends to take the edge off the suspense, slows the pace and takes up way too many pages. But despite that, Hogan's skillful, brutally-honest and evocative style of writing makes Prince of Thieves a dark story well worth reading.

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