Love and Theft by Stan Parish
You know me, I LOVE my thrillers. All of ’em. However there are two types I love more than the rest: the first has spies, the second has a heist. Love and Theft is the latter, and I’m delighted to be taking part in the short blog tour for it.
It begins in Las Vegas with the meticulously planned raid on a jewellery store at a casino. Security are diverted to the rear by a set-up distraction allowing four men on two powerful motorcycles to arrive to steal the jewels, which include a multi-million dollar necklace destined as a birthday present for a Shanghai developer’s wife. It was all running completely to plan, but for a boy who loved motorbikes getting his phone out. The video of the bikes getting away goes viral, one of the riders got shot in the arm. That was Australian getaway driver Craig, who later gets caught buying drugs, and gives up one of the others in the gang to the FBI for continued freedom.
Cut to Alex Cassidy, a tall man who works in events, arriving at the Princeton New Jersey, home of Dr Mallory for one of his off-duty ketamine
clinics salons for those who need help for depression or anxiety.
Alex comes here for relief. Work-related stress has lately left him anxious, edge, unable to sleep. Talk therapy is not an option, and every natural remedy he’s tried has failed. Ketamine forces a perspective shift, uncomfortable at first but ultimately calming. The combination of hallucinations and paralysis reminds him that control is mostly an illusion, something Alex knows intuitively but would rather not believe.
It’s here that Alex meets Diane. He’s sure he’s met her somewhere before – but can’t place it. They start dating and get to that stage where they’re telling each other about their lives, both single with just about grown-up children, Alex divorced, Diane effectively widowed before marriage – her partner didn’t live to see their child. There’s some tiptoeing around each other, but Alex realises that he’s fallen for Diane, and decides he has to tell her his big secret. He’s a thief: yes he was on one of the motorcycles. Moreover, he is willing to give up his life of crime for her.
Alex takes Diane and her son Tom to Mexico, where they link up with his daughter Paola, at the house of Alex’s best friend Catalina. He was planning to break the news to Catalina, also one of his gang, that he was done. But it doesn’t quite work out like that – Alex must do one more job, and it’ll be the most difficult one of his life. Diane is bound to be disappointed in him, and unknown to them, the FBI are closing in as the action relocates to Spain.
The ‘one last job’ routine is such a powerful one in this kind of crime novel. It requires the author to have built up the would-be ex-thief to such an extent that we are on his side – and with Alex, we are, all the way. There is the additional frisson of initially not knowing where their paths had previously crossed – do we trust Diane? Although this is resolved fairly early on in the novel, there will be far-reaching consequences for both Alex and Diane, and we grow to see that she has hidden depths which will be crucial too.
After the initial heist, Parish dials the pace down to build the relationship between Alex and Diane, and to explore Alex’s youth where we see how he got into this life together with his best friend Clay, finding a mentor in their victim when their first planned caper went wrong. However, once they go to Mexico, the pace picks up and the twists pile on. It’s in the action sequences that Parish excels. Alex is a meticulous planner, and watching the gang rehearse notches the tension further – you can feel that improvisation will be needed in the long run.
This book is a compact thriller at around 250 pages, meaning that once I got gripped I could just about read it in one sitting. Love and Theft is also a very visual novel – I could really imagine it on the big screen. It has the thrills of the chase, the glamour and the fab locations with the central romance of two forty-somethings falling in love – the title ‘does what it says on the tin’. Superb fun.
Source: Review copy – thank you to Faber. Stan Parish, Love and Theft, flapped trade paperback, 252 pages.
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