Canadian author Michael Van Rooy introduces an appealing antihero, Montgomery Haaviko, in his debut, a gritty, offbeat suspense novel, An Ordinary Decent Criminal, that has been released this month by Minotaur/Thomas Dunne Books.
Haaviko is what the guards in London’s Wormwood Scrubs Prison call “an ordinary decent criminal.” It’s a way of differentiating the burglars and smugglers from pedophiles or terrorists. Only there’s very little about Haaviko that is ordinary.
A reformed career criminal, he knows every trick of the trade: from how to conceal your fingerprints with a spot of Crazy Glue to the best way to survive a brutal police interrogation (scream a lot; it makes the cops feel better to know you appreciate their work).
It takes him less than a minute to kill all three. However, when the cops arrive, they whisk Haaviko off to jail where Detective Sgt. Enzio Walsh is determined to send him back to prison permanently. Prison might be safer than life on the outside. A local crime boss, the uncle of one of the robbers, is out for revenge.
Van Rooy heightens interest with his lead’s clever efforts to counter this campaign and tosses in enough dark humor to please Elmore Leonard fans.
One of the aliases Haaviko uses is Parker, the name of Richard Stark’s criminal anti-hero in a long-running series to which Van Rooy’s debut novel is likely to be compared, and justifiably so. As in the Stark novels, its often-brutal scenes are even more chilling for the matter-of-fact manner in which Haaviko accepts each deadly situation.
It’s also a bit of a how-to-be-a-criminal manual, as Haaviko explains the ins and outs of the criminal trade, presumably tips the author picked up during a three-year stretch in a Manitoba prison in the early 1990s.
Van Rooy says he was innocent. We’re going to take some convincing.
Van Rooy is the Program Coordinator for the Writers’ Collective for Professional and Developing Writers, a mentor for the Arts and Cultural Industries Fiction program, the Publicist for the THIN AIR Winnipeg International Writers Festival and the Administrator for the Canadian Mennonite University School of Writing. He is also the Vice-President of the Board of Directors of Prairie Fire Press.
Michael lives in Winnipeg with his wife and three children.