Hubie Schuze is a pot thief. Not marijuana-pot, but actual pots. Native American antiquities that need to be liberated from wherever they’ve been left and brought back into the world. And if he can make a profit, then all the better. Hubie has traced a likely location for such a relic – which is rather handy, as the mortgage is due – and when a buyer surfaces, it’s up to Hubie to sneak into the Tompiro ruins to see what he can find. Unfortunately, that ruin is in the middle of a US missile base…
Things don’t go to plan on the expedition to retrieve the pot and go downhill from there. Hubie’s dealer is found dead and the pot, left buried on the missile base, seems to be cropping up everywhere. While trying to manage his love life and the possible Georgia O’Keeffe painting that his best friend has uncovered, Hubie finds himself in the cross-hairs of both the US military and a ruthless killer…
This is the seventh book in the Pot Thief series, but the first time that I’ve come across it. I was scanning Netgalley looking for something that caught my eye – remember the “not buying books” resolution – and this was did the trick. It sounded very much in the vein of Lawrence Block’s “The Burglar Who…” series, which I enjoy very much, so I thought I’d give it a try.
And indeed it is very much in like that series. Hubie is a charming lead, a man with very few issues in life. It’s very pleasant to read a book where the lead character could actually be considered a role model, but that is the case here. Yes, he has the odd predilection for stealing pots, but apart from that… The supporting cast is fun and Hubie’s blossoming relationship with his girlfriend is extremely well-written – probably the best bit of the book overall. The unlikely-named Gladwyn, a Brit who has relocated to New Mexico, isn’t too bad (I’m sure non-British readers won’t have a problem) although things do dip into “Brits Say The Funniest Things” at times. Add in a wealth of background detail about New Mexico and its history (about which I know basically nothing) and it’s an engrossing read.
I mentioned a couple of reviews ago – Death On The Riviera – that I’d read a few books where the murder happened late but that it didn’t bother me, and, along with A Masterpiece Of Corruption, this is the third of those books. In fact the crime is mostly concerned with how the pot keeps appearing and vanishing, rather than who the killer is, and it works very well. It’s all properly clued – even to the extent where the reader remembered reading the vital bit but didn’t realise the significance, which is the sign of a great clue – and the solution to this bit is devilishly simple. Hubie as the narrator does assume that the reader would have worked it out before him – well, I didn’t.
What did put a dampener on what was otherwise a highly enjoyable read was how Hubie compares the case to two particular books – The Burglar Who Liked To Quote Kipling by Lawrence Block and The Flanders Panel by Arturo Peréz-Reverte – and utterly spoils vast swathes of plot, including the ending, of both of the books. Which was particularly annoying for me as the second book is reasonably high on my TBR pile. Sorry, was reasonably high… I appreciate the desire to draw possible parallels but this goes into far, far too much detail of other authors’ work for my comfort.
So, a highly enjoyable read with one massive (for me) disappointment. Highly Recommended, provided you’ve read those two books first. When I get back to buying books again, I’ll probably check out more from the series.
Many thanks to Open Road Media for the review copy via Netgalley. The book is out on Tuesday 9th February.