"Charlestown, a blue collar Boston neighborhood, produces more bank robbers and armored car thieves than any square mile in the world." So begins Chuck Hogan's compelling novel.
The day after the 100th running of the Boston Marathon, Claire Keesey, a branch manager for a Boston bank, walks into her bank to start her day. And what a start it is! She is met by four men in horribly scarred masks and told to open the vault. She does this reluctantly, and in the midst of the robbery she is able to initiate the silent alarm. However, one of the robbers has a wire into the alarms and alerts the others. They finish taking the money; leaving the top layers of monies that are marked and take Claire as a hostage. On the way out one of the robbers beats the assistant manager thinking he was the one to set the alarm. All of this is registered in Claire's memory. Claire is released unhurt but with residual psychological damage.
The robbers are four friends, born and brought up in Charlestown. Three have violent backgrounds and have spent time in jail. The leader is Doug MacKay. Jimmy "Jem" Coughlin and Freddy "Gloansy" Magloan are the toughies- Mirth or Menace they are called. Des Elden is the brain of the group, recruited by Doug. Des works for Nynex, a lineman who knows how to connect to anything and anybody. They all have a history, date the same girls, drink at the same Irish clubs, and all agree that the influx of young professionals into Charlestown is not a good thing. They are pricing the locals out of their mother's homes and succeeding where the British have failed- driving them out of their neighborhood.
Doug MacKay, the leader can't get Claire Keesey out of his mind. She is lovely, intelligent and wouldn't back down until she was threatened. He develops a relationship with Claire and they fall in love. How can this work? These two so very different souls. Claire has no idea that Doug is one of the robbers and that is how the suspense builds. Into the midst comes FBI agent Adam Frawley, in charge of all bank robberies. He too becomes fond of Claire. Agent Frawley is smart and he is intent upon "getting his man". It is not until the robbers look at taking on Fenway Park, a magnificently dangerous opportunity that leaks and clues becomes apparent.
Church Hogan has written a marvelous book. The characters are richly drawn and you can see them in your mind-the action, and the mystery all come alive. The old neighborhoods of Boston and Charlestown are engraved in memory. And to top it all off, we learn about effective, studious robbers versus lazy robbers. The "ins and outs" of the robbery world, so to speak. A book to be read in one sitting, if you can, it is hard to put down.
Highly Recommended. prisrob 09-11-10
The Killing Moon: A Novel
Devils in Exile: A Novel
on December 29, 2010
"The Town" or "The Prince of Thieves" is easily among the best crime novels I've read. The heists described in the novel are much cleverer than those depicted in the fine movie version, and the characters and their relationships are also much richer.
While I delighted in Mr. Hogan's account of the culture of violent crime in Charlestown, delighted in the work as a crime thriller, I was even more impressed by its quality as a novel, simply as a work of art. I see artistry especially in the depiction of the character of Claire Keesey, the young woman to whom both Doug, the professional bank robber, and Frawley, the dedicated FBI agent, find themselves powerfully attracted. Mr. Hogan, very deliberately I think, makes her the blandest person in the story--the only bland person, in fact. She is very passive, entirely reactive. Yet, the plot revolves around her. Because Krista, Doug's former girlfriend, is decidedly more interesting, stealing every scene in which she appears, we know that Mr. Hogan is perfectly capable of presenting compelling female characters. So the fact that Claire is so boring is entirely deliberate, and, I think, the crux of artistic point that Mr. Hogan wants to make. Doug's world unravels because he becomes obsessed with a woman who is as interesting as a piece of cardboard. Uninteresting, that is, unless, like Doug, you happen to have seen what she "look[s] like up close," in a very literal sense. Doug sees her up close, and in so doing, sees the personification of the light that is the opposite of the darkness of his own violent crimes, and those of his family and his friends. He goes after that light that he sees, never noticing that the person he has thereby become fixated upon is really just a very ordinary, arbitrary girl.
Thus we are gifted with a crime thriller that also happens to be a novel about how the course of human lives get determined by how people happen to find themselves perceiving things, and especially one another.
on August 19, 2010
Today, I finished for the second time Prince of Thieves. Rarely, have I ever re-read a book. I have seen movies more than once (Enemy of the State; 10 times, the Bourne series 3 or 4, Ronin 3 or 4 times, Shawshank Redemption 3 times, etc), so reading a book again is just not something I do. But, I wanted to read Prince of Thieves again after reading Devils in Exile and also with the movie coming out, just to see if my first impression of it was accurate. The second read was even more amazing than the first. There was a lot I apparently missed in that first read that I can tell you I did not miss this time.
What makes the book for me are a number of things. First of all, it is just a great story. Secondly, Hogan does a fabulous job in creating his characters and giving them an amazing sense of believability. Thirdly, the author's attention to detail in so many facets of the story made it more than a read, as the story had a life of its own and I could truly put things in my life aside and be there. Even though the book is more than ten years old, it struck me as being timeless. Fourthly, the dialogue is completely believable and realistic. Too many times, I have read novels where the characters say things that are too structured and too predictable. Growing up north of Boston and personally knowing kids from Charlestown due to some of my life experiences, perhaps gave me somewhat of an advantage in feeling the sense of the Town. I am old enough to remember the prison in Charlestown and the riots that took place there. The infamous characters of that era like Trigger Burke, for one, are people that I remember reading about. But, even if I had not had that knowledge, the story gives it to you and lets the reader be more than an observer and at times you feel that you are also part of that community.
I guess the bottom line would be that I loved the book and could easily see myself reading it a third time. Hogan should be very proud of his efforts and this achievement and while it is hard for me to believe that Afleck will be able to give it the justice it richly deserves in his film, to me none of that matters as the book will clearly transcend his interpretation. To be candid, when I read it the second time, the characters did not take on the look or feel of any of the cast members from the film. Hogan's prose created much different people in my mind and that struck me as being rather cool. Finally, I am not sure what I have written here adequately expresses what I really feel or want to say, but hopefully, The reader will make the effort and get the picture. Thanks to Chuck Hogan again for a richly rewarding use of my time.
on February 16, 2016
I know they made a movie of this but I have not seen it. I always prefer to read the book first. I found it well written and had some surprises I was not expecting. It is a very enjoyable read and well worth it. If you like a well told tale this one is for you!
on May 8, 2014
Excellent book, great read. If you liked Ben Affleck's movie, you should really read this book. As much as I love the film the book is even better, as they usually are. It's also different enough to still be good reading. Chuck Hogan knows these characters and this world so well, and his writing is superb.
on June 15, 2012
The plot is good, it is reasonably well-written and engaging.
However, the female characters (particularly Claire) are shockingly unbelievable. They come across as shallow and unlikable and no real person would actually think or act like that. The worst part is that they get more and more horrible as the book goes along.
I don't often say this, but the movie was much better. It did a much better job at conveying the depth of the characters and their emotions as they worked through complex issues. If you're thinking of reading this because you loved the film then don't waste your time.
on September 6, 2013
Start with something as bad ass as a heist story. Mix in a complex protagonist who is a gangster with a heart and conscious struggling with internal and external conflicts. Throw in a love story between a girl dealing with her traumatic events and the boy who caused the trauma. Spoon full of crazy antagonist (I mean scary crazy!), and you have yourself a near perfect book!
Prince of Thieves is the most well written book I have ever read. You immediately connect with the characters and they force you to turn the page to see what happens next. I mentioned the antagonist is scary crazy, I don't mean he belongs in a mental institution, but his actions can only be described as crazy. So much so that the reader is actually scared for the main character.
Winner of the 2004 Hammett Prize for literary excellence in crime writing, this book had me screaming at the characters at points, and envious at other points. The crimes in this book are far beyond a bank robbery, they go after movie theaters and armored trucks, and the grand daddy of all heists (spoiler coming in...) Fenway Park!
As good as the movie was, it failed to capture the conflict faced by Doug MacRay between the life he knows and the new life he could have, his relationship with his best friend James Coughlin, and the action packed ending that gets the reader gripped and begging for more. There is also so much more in the book that film had to take out (after all it could only be two hours) and because of it, the film had to be simplified. At the end of the day, the book is so much more complex than the film!
on April 3, 2013
I gave a 5 star rating because, I read this book three times back to back, after watching the movie, and I just couldn't put put it down. I felt a concern for the characters like the 4 main characters were my brothers or close friends. I felt like the author really made me feel, as the reader, that I truly knew the characters. I felt Doug's struggle with his life. He only wanted to do the right thing and be everything to everyone even at a risk to himself. I felt for Jem, as misguided as he was. Because don't we all want to remember the good times, even if they weren't so good? I felt his struggle to keep his best friend with him. Krista made me sad as a woman and a mother. She wasn't able to give her child all that she needed. She felt like she needed men to validate her and help her, when she is a strong, smart, able woman. Dez and Gloansey I felt like they needed to be part of a group to feel like they mattered, when, at least for Dez, not being part of the group would have been best. Claire, I really liked, and could really put myself in her shoes. Strong, independent, smart, wanting someone to love. I really rooted for her and Doug! Even knowing it wouldn't work out. I wanted it for them. I think they were saving each other. I have to say my least favorite character was defective Frawley. I just couldn't like him. I felt he was full of himself. Like he was all good and the boys were all bad. And his crush on Clair, creeper me out a little bit.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a little crime novel, a little romance, a little brotherhood, and a very tiny bit of history. Over all better then the movie, but what book isn't, and highly recommend.
on October 2, 2012
The ending was appropriate and the characters were realistic. The author obviously knew his characters and the places they grew up in. I do recommend this for anyone who wants to understand the criminal mentality. A really good read with a realistic ending.
on June 14, 2012
Bank robber falls for hostage: interesting premise and it kept me reading. Hogan's style is unusual, at times hard to follow so it wasn't an easy read but that's ok. I'm not familiar with the Boston area, and the descriptions of areas were really good.
The ending was extremely disappointing, not because of what happens, but it seemed that the author just couldn't find his way out. Lame, lame ending. Save your money, all in all.