cover image Six Bad Things

Six Bad Things

Charlie Huston, . . Ballantine, $21.95 (305pp) ISBN 978-0-345-46479-8

More than fulfilling the promise of Huston's 2004 debut, Caught Stealing , this remarkably assured hard-boiled caper has rapid-fire pacing, dead-on dialogue and a beleaguered protagonist who just can't get a break. Former minor league baseball player Hank Thompson barely escaped with his life at the end of Caught , making off with $4 million of the Russian mafia's money. Several years later, he's running a breakfast place in the Yucatan, down the shore from his secluded hut. When a Russian bounty hunter shows up asking questions, Hank Fed-Exes his bankroll to a friend in Las Vegas and sneaks north across the border. When not trying to kill him, two surf bum criminals convince him they're allies; as the book reaches its climax, Hank finds himself dodging a memorable cast of lowlifes, would-be mobsters and scammers. Huston takes care with Hank, making him funny and sympathetic (even as he reminds us that he has killed six people in New York), and giving even cardboard situations and slight exchanges charge. (One of the surfers on a pair of boots: "Kind of metallish for my taste, but fuck it, we're incognito, right?") This second installment of a planned trilogy will leave readers anxious for more. Agent, Simon Lipskar at Writers House . 5-city author tour . (July 1)