Be nice. Nice is good. Nice sets a standard. Then, when you get mean, the shock is strongest.
Montgomery "Monty" Haaviko has done the crimes and has lived the criminal lifestyle. His trade secretscould fill a book. Now all he wants to do is settle down with his wife and baby and work on building a straight life. But for a man who's never held down a legitimate job and who faces the daily temptation of returning to his past, it isn't going to be easy. When Monty foils a robbery in his new home, killing the intruders, he quickly finds there are those who don't want him ever to forget what he once was. Detective Sergeant Enzio Walsh knows all about Monty's history and is determined to use it to put Monty away for murder.
A couple of drops of Krazy Glue on the tips of your fingers eliminate fingerprints
Not since Jack Reacher has there been such a quick-thinking, hard-edged anti-hero whom readers will root for against all odds. Monty imparts his hard-earned criminal knowledge via sharp asides straight out of the hit show Burn Notice or the bestselling Beat the Reaper, because he knows it's going to take all of the tricks he has to prove his innocence, protect his family and avoid the allure of the life he left behind.
A dying man can do a lot of damage.
About the Author
MICHAEL VAN ROOY was a full-time writer who lived in Canada. In his diverse career, he worked as a teacher, a newspaper editor, a bartender, a cheesemaker, and a casino dealer. He won the 2009 John Hirsh Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer. He passed away suddenly in January 2011. He will be missed.
Read an Excerpt
An Ordinary Decent Criminal
By Michael Van Rooy
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2005 Michael Van Rooy
All rights reserved.
I had a gun I didn't want to use. It was a small, heavy thing of blue-black metal overlaid with a rainbow patina and stuffed shit-full with fattened copper bombs. It was hidden away in the right-hand pocket of my paisley dressing gown with my fingers resting gently on its butt. There were three men in my new home, one behind me with empty hands and two in front; one of those with a cheap hunting knife and the other with a piece of iron rebar as long as my arm. As far as I could tell, though, I was the only one with a gun.
"My wife is upstairs and pregnant."
All three men laughed nervously but didn't move. I was about a hundred percent certain I knew what they were thinking, but I couldn't afford mistakes because my wife and child were upstairs. The three had been caught breaking and entering and hadn't decided what to do. They could run or they could stay, and in either case they could hurt me or mine. That gave them three possible actions to choose from and two were bad, and that forced my hand.
The hair on my arms went up as I made a decision. All three were wearing black woolen balaclavas with eye and mouth holes, and later I'd find out that the one behind me was also wearing a baseball hat that advertised Esso Gas.
"... I'll give you all blow jobs if you'd like."
Time slowed for me as the one with the rebar grunted with effort and swung, but I was already falling inside the arc of the blow and twisting as I went. The crack of the iron denting the table beside me was loud as I raised the gun and pulled the trigger. In the quiet house the gun was a thunderclap and it woke my wife and my son and my dog and my mouse.
The boy cursed shrilly as the bullet entered his belly to fragment against his pelvic bone and steal the strength from his arms and legs. Shards of copper and splinters of bone briefly shared the same velocity as they scythed through meat and muscle, but, meanwhile, I was rolling towards the middle of the room and switching the gun from right hand to left. The other two boys had started to move and I fired twice more while they were stunned by the noise of the first shot. In the dimly lit room, the shots were accompanied by jets of burning gas almost a foot long, a blinding light that drove the bullets through the air.
One boy catches the round in the left eye of his mask and the second is turning when his bullet catches him under an armpit and cracks his spine. Both are dying as they fall and by the time they land, their hearts have stopped and their brains no longer spark. The echoes of the shots are fading and I can hear my son crying, my wife swearing, my dog finally waking and barking, while my mouse rustles in its dry aquarium.
Claire, my wife, comes down the stairs with a bayonet off an old rifle, held in a fencer's grip, and she is completely naked and gloriously full-breasted. She glares at the dim room and takes in the whole scene with a single glance and a narrowed mouth before moving into the kitchen with the blade held parallel to the ground at waist height, ready to stab or slash. The dog follows her but he's young and still confused by the loud noises and so he moves in a parody of solemn silence and virtue. I listen carefully to the silence for anything above the cries of my son, which have changed from terror to outrage at his inability to get anyone to bring him food.
"... Ehak ..."
A cough comes from the first person I'd shot and I kneel. The skin under the mask is white and his breathing is erratic and slowing even as I watch.
"She's not pregnant."
The man, no, the boy, makes it sound accusing but I pay him no attention. The dog has come over and is sniffing the boy in friendship and curiosity, only to get pushed away with a feeble hand. I check to make sure the rebar is well out of reach and smile as though to a half-heard pleasantry.
Claire moves back through the room towards the front of the house, checking the windows as she goes for signs of entry. She does not look at the bodies, but moves around them to avoid the slowly spreading stains on the carpeted floor. The dog looks up at her and trots over to join the new game, which looks like much more fun than the one I was playing.
Upstairs, I find my son Fred, holding hard to the bars of his crib. He is just ten months old and teething a little as he sobs. I pick him up and he is calmed by my smell and tries to reach the gun in my hand. Instead, I give him a rattle shaped like a black and white Christmas tree and he is satisfied and quiets down. Back downstairs, the boy on the floor hasn't moved much and I go over to watch while he dies.
"You should have taken the blow job."
I feel kind of sorrowful and kind of relieved, and Fred reaches out with a chubby hand and touches my cheek, and so I kiss his fingers, which makes him happy. I revel in that touch but I can hear sirens in the distance and my vision narrows until all I can see is the lame mask concealing the dead boy's face and the dog who's come back to sniff at the outstretched hand.CHAPTER 2
Claire had come back into the room with the bayonet lowered and a dark flush fading slowly across both breasts and on her neck. Fredrick had fallen asleep in my arms and drooled peacefully on my left shoulder, and the dog had finally settled down. Claire flipped on the overhead lights and I could see the taped boxes stacked against the walls, each with a black number and letter combination drawn with a marker on the sides. She glanced at the bodies and exhaled through her nose; she'd done this kind of stuff before and hadn't liked it any more then.
"There's no one else here. What happened?"
Claire can tell when I lie, most of the time, anyway, and she put a little rawhide and steel into her voice to remind me of that.
"Would you like the truth or what we're going to tell the cops?"
My voice cracked with residual strain and I resented it, it was unprofessional. She nodded like I'd already told her something important.
"Both, I think."
I handed Fredrick over and he complained a bit but fell asleep again after Claire put her knife down on the table. Right beside the knife was the dent made by the rebar club.
"These three assholes broke in to rob us. I heard them and came down with the pistol to chase them out. They tried to kill me and I shot them."
Claire's eyes narrowed when I mentioned the pistol.
"With the pistol? What pistol? Certainly not a pistol you kept? Right? Hmmm? Not after you promised."
Busted. I held up both hands.
"I kept one piece, just one. Not for work, I promise and I mean it. It was for self-defense. I'll crucify myself later."
I waited and she looked at me. She was a hair's breadth from leaving me, I could feel it. We were together on certain conditions and if she thought I was lying about this, then she was gone.
"No more, Monty. Nothing at all, ever again. Am I clear? I'll crucify you myself. Okay?"
The cold rage coming off her was palpable. I waved it off and went on.
"Between us, I gave 'em a chance and they didn't take it. I'm very sorry it happened."
The sirens were closer and I walked to the front of the house so I could see the street. Claire followed. Her mind was already working on more practical matters, like how to get away clean.
"Shouldn't you wipe the gun?"
I glanced down at the snub-nosed gun and felt the cool, checkered walnut grips. The gun was a Smith and Wesson K Frame revolver, a Patrolman model built to handle .38 caliber special rounds, and it was pretty much untraceable. I'd done the work myself with acid and an emery wheel, grinding down the serial numbers on the outside and the set hidden inside until it was as clean as I could make it.
I hadn't even stolen it in this province.
"No. Our story is that the bad guys brought the gun with them. I came down and we wrestled."
I paced around and gestured with my hand.
"Wrestle, wrestle, wrestle. Then I took the piece away from them and had to shoot. You woke up. We don't have a phone yet so we couldn't call the cops."
I thought about it and continued. "They'll be here soon enough, anyway."
There were curtains on the front window and I could see through the gap. I'd laughed when Claire had put them up first thing, but now I appreciated them. The sirens were louder, and a blue and white Crown Victoria sedan pulled up to disgorge two Winnipeg cops, a youngish blond man and a brown woman. She yanked the shotgun out of the holder built into the dashboard and carried it at port arms up the path, but that didn't surprise me, it was that kind of neighborhood. I felt a little thrill. I hadn't dealt with cops for a while and I wondered if these were any good.
Claire's voice was clipped and I turned back towards the dead bodies. Already they were starting to settle as the air left the lungs and the piss and shit seeped out to mingle with the blood on the carpet. Fortunately, we were renting.
"Stall 'em a second, hon. A little panic/fear/rage would be appropriate."
Fred started to cry when the dog began to bark, which he did as soon as the cops passed into the front yard. I put the pistol on the table and then pulled a plastic baggie with extra bullets from the dressing gown pocket. The unarmed man had fallen on his back, and I opened the front pocket on his black nylon windbreaker and dumped in the six lead and copper rounds. I shredded the baggie into a half-empty box of cutlery and then came back as the cops reached the porch.
"Police. Open up."
They were doing it right, one on each side of the door and a long reach to knock and announce. Claire glanced at me and I nodded and opened the door. Before I could do anything, there was a thumb-wide shotgun barrel jammed into the hollow of my throat and a pale brown face staring down the receiver. The gun was crude, primitive, and lethal, and eminently capable of blowing my fucking head from my fucking neck so I slowly exhaled and made no movements at all.
"Police. Hands up, please. We have a report of shots."
Her voice had a West Indian lilt that sounded like music and she smelled like cinnamon mixed half and half with gun oil. Slowly my hands went past my shoulders and she smiled and nodded. Her partner slipped past me with a Buck Rogers-type pistol in both hands, pointed at the ceiling.
"I want to call a lawyer. My name is Samuel Parker and this is my house, my family just moved in and we have no phone yet. The woman behind me is my wife and the baby is my son. Three men broke in with guns and knives to rob us and I killed them in self-defense. I want to call a lawyer."
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the younger cop blush furiously when he saw Claire standing there naked. Reflexively he moved to holster his piece. "Jeez," he said.
The woman with the shotgun made a gentle spitting sound like a chicken critiquing her young and her nose wrinkled in disapproval.
"No, Officer. You keep the gun out. You ignore the pretty naked lady. You check the house. Then you call for an ambulance. Ma'am? Please don't move. This has to be done a certain way to avoid unpleasantness."
The boy cop held onto his gun and started into the dining room, staying near the wall and out of the lady's line of fire. Fred cried and the shotgun stayed steady at my throat as Claire spoke with a voice that cracked with the same cold rage. "Goddamn you. Take that gun off my husband, he didn't do anything wrong. Go do your job."
The bright eyes sighting along the shotgun didn't even twitch and the cop's cheerful voice dropped half an octave. "Be quiet, ma'am."
The other officer finished checking the first floor and came into view out of the corner of my vision. "We got three deaders back there."
He looked blank and started talking into the walkie-talkie on his belt. "We need two ambulances plus crime scene and homicide to a private home on Aikins. No sirens. Repeat: no sirens, one suspect, and needing crime scene and homicide. Reference officers Ramirez and Halley."
Our dog Renfield, a Frankenstein-mixed mongrel, ambled up to sit pretty beside me with a battered Frisbee in his mouth.
"Sorry, boy, not now."
The cop behind me grabbed my wrist and I felt the cold steel forcing my hand down to waist level before ratcheting tight, one wrist to the other. The cop with the shotgun didn't do anything until I was pulled down to my knees and then she spoke. "The gun, Officer. The one on the table, bag it. You should have done that right away."
The younger one had a whine in his voice as he answered and it grated on my nerves. "What about chain of evidence?"
The shotgun was now pointed at the floor and the cop's finger was finally outside the trigger guard. Now I could focus past it to read "Ramirez" on the name tag.
"Chain of evidence don't mean shit if the lady with the baby shoots us dead. We protect ourselves first."
She gave me a sweet half-smile at odds with disinterested cop eyes.
"Sorry, sir. We have to do things in a certain way. I am quite sure you have done nothing wrong."
Fred had finally stopped crying and I turned my head to see Claire standing about four feet away and staring at Ramirez as she asked, "What is your name?"
The cop smiled and showed beautiful teeth. They looked capped and were even, with a smudge of lipstick on one incisor. "Elena Ramirez, ma'am. That is a beautiful boy you have there."
Claire didn't say a word; she just stared with narrowed eyes and I recognized her rage, but then she smiled and chucked Fred under the chin. When he laughed, I relaxed a bit and allowed a smile as Ramirez glanced down at me with a slightly confused look and then back at Claire.
"Yes. His name is Fredrick."
The cop shifted her grip on the shotgun and I knew what she was seeing. Here she was, talking politely with a man who had just killed three people and a naked woman who looked absolutely relaxed despite having three stiffs in the same room. She was probably wondering if she had missed something because all the little cop alarms were going off in her head. She stepped back and looked me over again, and I knew she was trying to place my face. Early thirties, slightly over six feet tall, with very pale skin and lots of old scars on his arms and hands. Pale gray or blue eyes and blond hair cut short. Normal enough, except I looked comfortable despite the handcuffs and the corpses and the cops. Cops know that only psychopaths, soldiers, and cops can kill and be comfortable with it, and she was probably trying to put me in the right category.
Others had tried, so I grinned at her, "Lots of luck."
I said it out loud and Ramirez glanced at Claire and looked even more confused. My wife was mad, which made sense, but not scared, which didn't. So Claire ended up filed away in the cop memory too, five foot nine, about a hundred and forty pounds, well built, sun-browned all over except for a narrow strip around belly and crotch. She was crowned with thick, unkempt, reddish-brown hair worn long, and had dark brown eyes. I wondered if the cop would recognize the untannable stretch marks brought on by pregnancy.
The other cop was back on the walkie-talkie, deciphering the Babel of static and code with ease and answering too low for me to hear.
Ramirez said, "Perhaps, ma'am, you might get dressed. I think you might distract the paramedics when they arrive. You are also certainly confusing Officer Halley."
Claire allowed herself to be escorted upstairs and started a conversation about babies, while I waited in the doorway with a really dumb cop behind me with a pistol and a walkie-talkie. My hands weren't used to being handcuffed anymore and they ached with tension and muscle memory until I consciously relaxed. I could see out the open door past the front yard to the tree-lined street and, although it was early spring and cold, neighbors were starting to cluster in small groups on the sidewalk. The police car still had its flashers on and the harsh light threw the whole block into sharp relief.
In time Claire and Ramirez came back down with Fred but she wasn't allowed to talk to me, and soon after that, an ambulance showed with a half-dozen cop cars and a small panel truck. The first non-uniformed cop into the house was a big man with washed- out blue eyes in a cheap, gray, three-piece suit, carrying an unlit, expensive cigar. In the house I could hear Ramirez talking and then the big cop came back and stared at me while he lit the cigar with a wooden kitchen match. In front of us, the yard was filling up with cops in uniforms and paramedics in white smocks.
"Yes. I would like to call a lawyer."
I said it as loud as I could without yelling and some of the people in the yard flinched but the big cop paid no attention.
"My name is Detective Enzio Walsh. You are under arrest. You have ..."
In the background Claire yelled that I was innocent and I let a smile cross my face because for the first time in a long while, I knew where I stood.
Excerpted from An Ordinary Decent Criminal by Michael Van Rooy. Copyright © 2005 Michael Van Rooy. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Rating: 2.5* of five (p107)The Book Report: Monty Haaviko is an ODC...an ordinary decent criminal. A robber, con man, drug addict salt-of-the-earth criminal, not one of your scumbag terrorist pedophile types. He's decided, now that he's got a wife and kid, that staying straight and off the drugs is the way to go.Ever thought about how hard that'd be? It's hard. Monty finds that out when some bad men invade his home and threaten his family, and he kills them. Hell, I'd kill 'em too, and the cops would do their duty, arrest me, and the legal system would make frowny faces at me, and before too terribly long my life would go on in its accustomed dullness.Monty's, well, maybe not so much. The cops beat him really bad, the criminals start hunting him, and his family is in danger the entire time. Why, all of a sudden, is everyone down on his narrow ass? What did he do? And how many more ways are we going to parallel Jack Reacher?My Review: Which is why I gave up on p107. The late Mr. van Rooy wrote nice sentences, and plotted well, but frankly I'm not the biggest fan of ODC fiction, and reading someone else's take on a character I find only mildly entertaining isn't the best use of my eyeblinks.With each word I jabbed a little harder into Robillard's eye and then I stopped and headed up the stairs. At the top I booked it down the alley, stopping for a second to open the hood and tear a handful of wires loose from Sandra's car. A few alleys over, I wiped down the three guns on a piece of canvas sticking out of a garbage can and dropped them one at a time into trash cans and down sewer gratings. On the bus home I wondered about Shirley Holmes.That's as far as I read. That's as good as any of the writing got. That's not bad, but it's not making my needle point north, and frankly (or barbraly, depending on your mood) that is what needs to happen these days for me not to abandon ship and search for the next high down a different alley.
Loved it. Van Rooy is off to a great start.From Barbara - "It¿s all about the VOICE here, just so fine. And thehumor, the superb irony, of the narrator, a guy who knows allabout addiction, all about living on the edge and falling over itdoing prison time, and all about how much he loves his wife andchild and the resolve with which he greets every day to stay withit, in it. And so when trouble arrives, he is nothing but unorthodox,losing no time in killing the three armed men who break into hishouse. The cops eventually rule it self defense, but who starts thewhispering campaign that keeps our guy, Montgomery Haaviko,from getting gainful employment? The story itself is not asoriginal as the way it is told but I¿m telling you, you will not seethe ending coming"
I really don't know where to start, this is a fabulous novel. Canadian Van Rooy is just breaking into the US market and I predict a great future for him. He's as good as the best mystery writers I already love. I did a little research, and apparently this is the first in a series, already three deep, already published in Canada and the UK. I'm hoping St. Martin's Press, his US publisher will release the others, in short order.
They say behind every successful man is a woman. Monty is no different. His wife and baby son's lives are in his hands. Literally. When the three bad guys break in to his home he has to defend his family. Monty just wants to be left alone. Left alone by the police, the local Winnipeg mob, his boss who fires him prematurely, his neighbors and their nasty notes and the landlord who is trying to evict him before his lease is up. See, Monty used to be a really bad guy, but having done his time is trying to live a straight life, if everyone will just let him alone. With the help of an occasional employer, his attorney and his wife and child, Monty tries to solve the problems of his corner of the world. This witty, fast-past, edgy, action thriller will keep you cheering for the bad guy in this debut novel from Canadian author, Michael Van Rooy.
In Winnipeg, career criminal; Montgomery Haaviko is trying to stay legit. His efforts to stay straight are fueled by his wonderful wife and their child. However, his intentions fail when three men break into his home. Though they are armed, Haaviko kills them in self-defense. He explains to the cops what transpired, but his past catches up with him and he is arrested for murder. Distrusting the Canadian judicial system to give him a fair shake, Haaviko refuses to talk to the police without a lawyer present. The cops severely batter him into unconsciousness trying to make him confess, but he remains mute. Later, in spite of the claim by the police that he confessed Haaviko and his lawyer force all charges to be dropped. However, legally from his point of view the case closed but he is unable to obtain employment. Someone has begun a crusade informing prospective employers that Haaviko is a career felon who just got away with murder. This is a terrific gritty Canadian crime thriller in which the hero struggles with his past haunting him while he escorts the audience through the harsh criminal underbelly of the city. The story line starts incredible fast-paced and loaded with action, but eventually slightly decelerates as Monty's woes take center stage. Readers will appreciate this delightfully often darkly humored tale of how difficult it is going straight especially when someone wants to get Monty. Harriet Klausner
Winnipegger's debut mystery astonishing
Winnipegger Michael Van Rooy's debut mystery novel is astonishingly good. A Decent Ordinary Criminal (Ravenstone, 340 pages, $12.00) is funny, fast-paced and so hugely compelling it's hard to put down. Van Rooy has all the elements - a terrific protagonist, a twisting plot and a writing style that snaps along.
Monty Haaviko, now known as Parker, is a career criminal trying to go straight. It would be a first for a man with almost as many aliases as he has convictions. But he's kicked the drugs that nearly claimed him, married a good woman and had a son. It looks like Winnipeg may be a place to settle.
That's until three men break into his house and he kills them all. He's hauled off to the Public Safety Building and beaten within an inch of his life. When he regains conciousness, he's got a lawyer and the cops claim to have a confession. That's just the beginning of his problems.
Van Rooy neatly details the criminal underworld, filled with petty drug deealers, shady characters and the police who pursue them. Local readers will enjoy the occasional reference to Winnipeg landmarks but, more than that, they'll enjoy the skill of the author.
Here's hoping Monty Haaviko will be part of a continuing series for Ravenstone, an imprint of Winnipeg-based Turnstone Press.