Safecracker skillfully contains all the elements of hip heist story: a daring burglary; life-and-death situations; a femme fatale; high-class locations; a British handler; a friendly bar. You name it, author Ryan Wick has it in place all set to a swinging Dean Martin score.
Wick has the genre’s tropes blended down into a delicious cocktail. The locations are alive and electric. His words are relay race quick. Best of all? He has a cool story making Safecracker a fast, fun read.
Why then is master thief Michael Maven a boring character?
Michael Maven might be among the best of what he does. He is a high-class thief who ensures no one, except the insurance companies, gets hurt. While attempting to pick off an ultra-rare coin he gets bogarted by a kick-ass karate babe who kills his mark and then has Michael set up by a Mexican Cartel. No longer a thief-for-hire, Michael must now break into a rival Cartel’s safe in order to win his life back. And Wick lays on the stress as nothing is easy. From the alleyways of New York to the palatial estates of Miami, Safecracker has all the makings of a Jerry Bruckheimer action flick.
Maven, however, is as watery as a Coors Light. He’s like that high school friend who had all those lofty plans: own a movie theater, sip blended Scotch, pick locks, learn martial arts. He yearns to be Chris Pratt but is stuck being Taylor Kitsch or Robbie Amell and remains as tame as junior prom date at a Christian academy. Wick never gets into why Maven steals, other than a few hints at it being the “family business.” Maven has no vices. He’s not a gambler or alkie or misogynist or matchstick man or pet lover or – heaven forbid – a Vegan! He’s a Cardinals fan of all things! He is devoid of anything that would brand him a … scoundrel. Isn’t that what all good thieves and gamblers and hustlers tend to be? Scoundrels? Not Maven. The dude is a walking fan-fiction creation. Mister perfection. Zero personality.
Wick balances an ample amount of set-up and exhibition. Of practice and trade. The fun part of heist stories is counterbalancing the planning with the actual deed. Wick doesn’t disappoint. Yes, Maven might express his doubts but his Mister Nice-Guy routine eventually gets everyone on his team, including the women in his life, be they the kick-ass killer or silent FBI type.
During his next heist, Maven needs to score up a smoking habit. And switch allegiances to a team no one follows. Like the Mets.
Safecracker is a fun heist tale told well. Look for the movie soon on Netflix. Probably helmed by Taylor Kitsch. Or Robbie Amell.
Thanks to Ryan Wick, NetGalley, and Thomas Dunne Books for the steal of a read.