Brothers on the run fuel 'Hideout,' Kathleen George's latest Pittsburgh crime caper
Book review: 'Hideout' by Kathleen George. Minotaur Books, $24.99.
August 21, 2011 4:00 AM
By Cristina Rouvalis
Ryan Rutter is swerving through the streets of Pittsburgh, jazzed on drugs, an empty liquor bottle rattling around in the back seat of the truck.
His younger brother, Jack, is dizzy in the passenger side. This is bad. He knows he has to stop his brother before something goes awry.
Before Jack can convince his brother to relinquish the wheel, Ryan swerves near a woman crossing the street just to scare her, just for the sport of it. Jack tries to grab the steering wheel, but Ryan veers it back.
Most police thrillers start with a murder. But "Hideout" draws readers in with the tension of a hit-and-run accident that sends the brothers fleeing north past affluent suburbs -- Wexford, Cranberry and beyond -- as they worry whether the woman is alive and whether police are dogging them.
Kathleen George, the Edgar-nominated Pittsburgh writer, has created another taut page-turner filled with unpredictable twists, memorable characters and a subtle exploration of class tensions.
The book is the latest installment of her Pittsburgh police procedural series. Fans of "The Odds" and "Afterimage" will welcome back Richard Christie, the charismatic head of homicide, and his protege, Colleen Greer, the sexy and smart detective who is trying to recover from her crush over the married Christie.
Colleen starts dating one of Christie's neighbors, but her workaholic tendencies get in the way of her social life.
The latest case that landed on her desk -- a young woman found dead on the street -- is giving her fits. There are few clues about this mysterious hit-and-run accident.
The politics and sexual tension and irreverent banter within a police precinct are fun reading, as are the references to Pittsburgh landmarks such as the Park House and East Ohio Street.
But the most memorable part of the book is the painful push and pull between Ryan and Jack, who represent the two sides of drifters who were abandoned by their mother.
Ryan is all testosterone-charged, self-destructive anger, while Jack is a decent yet aimless guy.
Ms. George makes the reader feel great empathy for Jack, who is torn between wanting to do the right thing and not wanting to alienate his brother, the only family member still in his life.
As Greer scours Pittsburgh neighborhoods looking for a clue to the woman's death, Ryan and Jack hide out in Sugar Lake, the place where they vacationed as kids.
Broke, they are desperate to find money without attracting any attention. With his bad-boy swagger, Ryan tells Jack to do chores for an elderly person, case the joint and then steal from her.
Jack knocks on the door of a gracious old woman named Addie, and asks to do some chores. She agrees. He finds he likes to work for Addie, who gives him the benefit of the doubt despite his drifter looks. He can't bear to rob her.
The plot thickens as Ryan, never one to bury a grudge, does something to avenge a childhood slight.
In Kathleen George's hands, this is a thrilling and thoughtful ride.
Cristina Rouvalis is a Pittsburgh-based freelance writer.