Written by Lee Chambers — The Canadian author of this book originally created the Pineville Heist as a screenplay, and the story’s not just been turned by him into a novel but it’s also being made for the big screen. We don’t often look at crime fiction books for young adults but this one looked both accessible to 11- to 14-year-old boys and entertaining enough for adults, so I decided to take a look. Plus, having worked in TV both in the UK and US, the writer now lives in Thunder Bay, Ontario which to me is as good a reason as any for checking out his book.
The hero of our tale is Aaron Stevens. He’s a highschool student in the small town of Pineville, where the economy rests entirely on a lumber mill owned by Aaron’s father. Aaron’s a bit of a dreamer and would like to act. For this his hard-nosed dad bullies him and after an argument in the limo on the way to school, Aaron is ejected from the car. He takes a shortcut through some woods and sees what appear to be two bank robbers stashing some loot at an abandoned campsite.
After hurrying along to school for his English lesson where he reads the lines of Hamlet, he entices two friends to skip the rest of the day to see if they can find the cash. The $5 million was actually put in the bank by Aaron’s father as an investment in the local mill, and will thus keep the town afloat. Back in the woods, the thieves show up again and Aaron and his friends must run or conceal themselves. Aaron hides in an overturned canoe and witnesses the murder of one of the bandits by someone big and mean.
In mortal fear he runs for it and sees his buddy Steve get shot down. Aaron flees back to the now empty school with half the cash, but has a hard time getting his teacher, the principal or the Sheriff to believe him. Our protatonist soon discovers some of these authority figures are not to be trusted. He finds out who was behind the bank robbery, and that person tries to get the money from him, and kill him. It becomes a battle royale involving bats, pistols, shotguns, iron bars, shards of glass and more.
Chambers doesn’t seem a natural novellist and early in the book he uses the word elaborate three times in just two sentences, talking about plant pots. You could call it over elaboration, but my bad pun actually belies the writer’s true gift for writing a gripping story. The word selection may be narrow at times but Chambers is an expert at propelling you through the Pineville Heist’s unrelenting action. The swordfight using props from Hamlet is amazing, for instance. I can easily see this as a thrilling action film. It’s full of plot twists, desperation and heroism from the main character.
The Pineville Heist is a little thin on substance and detail, and the characters are quite obvious, but it seems the author was hell-bent on action and that’s what he delivers. A wild, gritty, gripping, blood-dripping, battle-tastic story which keeps you reading, it’s also available at a great price on Kindle. Your lad should enjoy it, and you might too. You can see a trailer for it below.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars