Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of No Such Creature by Giles Blunt. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.
Henry Holt (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-8050-8062-7 (0805080627)
ISBN-13: 978-0-8050-8062-9 (9780805080629)
Publication Date: May 2009
List Price: $25.00
Review: Giles Blunt advances an interesting crime caper-type premise in his latest stand-alone thriller No Such Creature, but doesn't really develop it much beyond simple storytelling.
Magnus "Max" Maxwell and his great-nephew Owen Maxwell are gentlemen thieves, charming their victims as they relieve them of their jewels and money, all the while eschewing violence of any kind. Their carefully executed crimes and cleverly devised disguises keep them out of jail but not out of the sights of a band of thieves of thieves known as the Subtractors. As Max and Owen begin their cross-country journey from California back to their home in New York City, they're followed by the Subtractors, who are determined to take -- by any means necessary -- everything the Maxwells have so artfully acquired.
It isn't quite clear what the author was trying to achieve with No Such Creature. In some ways, the novel has the potential to be a comic caper, what with Max's theatrical approach to his profession, his Shakespearean way of speaking, even the massive motor home that incongruously serves as their home away from home. But any humor in the narrative is subdued, to say the least. Then again, it also has the potential to be a suspense novel or thriller with the Maxwells unknowingly being chased by the ruthless Subtractors ... but the leisurely pacing of the plot suggests otherwise. Even the mysterious Sabrina, the daughter of a colleague (as it were) of Max's who enters the picture about a third of the way through, doesn't clarify much. Is she really the innocent young woman she appears to be, or is there something more sinister lurking just beneath the surface? And while No Such Creature is entertaining in its own way (the dialog, in particular, is exceptionally witty: "If he's so awful, why were you so friendly to him?" "That, my boy, is one of the cruelties of incarceration. One must choose one's friends from a very murky pool."), it's ever so slightly disappointing as it fails to meaningfully engage the reader's participation in the journey. It should be noted, though, that the ambiguous ending, while completely in keeping with the rest of the novel, is nonetheless delightfully unexpected.
Special thanks to Henry Holt for providing an ARC of No Such Creature for this review.
Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
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Synopsis (from the publisher): Eight years ago, Owen Maxwell was saved from a foster home by the arrival of his uncle Max from England. Once a promising Shakespearean actor, Magnus “Max” Maxwell has since put his dramatic skills to new use: a master of disguise, a virtuoso of foreign dialects, and a performer to his core, he has become an extremely successful gentleman thief. Every summer, Max and Owen take a road trip across the United States, pulling off elaborate robberies along the way. But this year is different. Their first, dazzlingly executed summer heist captures the interest of the Subtractors.
Long believed an urban myth, the Subtractors are a gang of vicious thieves who prey on other thieves. They will abduct a fellow crook known to have completed a lucrative job and proceed to “subtract” parts of his body until he tells them where they can find the loot. “No such creature,” Max says, when Owen first suspects that they may be in the Subtractors’ sights. But in this, as in so many things, Max will prove to be disastrously wrong.
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