The time is past due to ask if there is anything that Blake Crouch cannot write and write superlatively well. The evidence demonstrates that the answer would be a resounding “no.” Make that “NO!” We can say that with authority as the result of the publication of GOOD BEHAVIOR. Actually, we could have said it long before now, given Crouch’s ability to take just about any genre you can name --- suspense, thriller, western, horror, science fiction --- and make it his own. This is Crouch’s best example of his foray into the subgenre of caper fiction, one that you will want to read again and again, before or after you watch the television series adaptation of the work, which premiered November 15th on TNT.
GOOD BEHAVIOR is the complete collection of the three Letty Dobesh novellas: “The Pain of Others,” “Sunset Key” and “Grab.” Letty is a complex mishmash of a boatload of superlative talent and devastating flaws, all of which are put on display in Crouch’s able hands. She is a master thief, pickpocket and burglar of unmatched ability. But she is also an addict, hooked not only on alcohol and illicit drugs but also on the adrenaline rush that she receives from being in the middle of a caper and staying a half-step (or less) ahead of her target.
"GOOD BEHAVIOR does much more than complement its visual reproduction; it is every bit its equal and deserves to be read, as well as seen."
The episodes, if you will, that comprise GOOD BEHAVIOR demonstrate the highs and lows of Letty’s life against a backdrop of suspenseful situations full of twists and turns. “The Pain of Others” begins on the upside, with Letty involved in a heist from a hotel room. The problem is that the occupant returns a bit too soon; while hiding, Letty overhears a murder-for-hire plan. She feels duty bound to warn the target, which turns out to be the wrong thing to do.
While “The Pain of Others” ends on an up note for Letty, “Sunset Key” finds her on the short end of a new start on sobriety. If you want to read a perfect example of the rule “show, don’t tell,” Crouch gives us one at the beginning of “Sunset Key,” where a down-on-her-luck Letty is offered a part in a million-dollar heist that involves stealing a priceless painting from a convicted embezzler who is about to be imprisoned. It’s a dark story; Letty has a lot riding on its success, but about halfway through, her script goes sideways and she cannot rely on anything or trust anyone. There are several moments during the story that will have you saying “Shoot!” with the o’s dotted, which no doubt was Crouch’s intent.
As for “Grab,” the last novella in GOOD BEHAVIOR, you will be forgiven if you immediately think of the Ocean’s Eleven movie franchise when you begin reading this. Please also forgive yourself for being wrong, as the story, which involves an extremely large heist from a Las Vegas hotel and casino, spins off in a couple of different directions before settling down and leaving the possibility of more to come for Letty Dobesh.
These three novellas would be plenty of bang for your literary buck all by themselves. But Crouch provides a much welcome bonus with a special introduction and additional commentary after each story, which pulls the curtain back and reveals the nuts and bolts of the creative process in transforming these stories into their serial television adaptation. Since most of us only see the finished products of artistic works, it is fascinating to get the “underwear” peek, if you will, into Crouch’s creative process, including the reproduction of some of his handwritten notes. GOOD BEHAVIOR does much more than complement its visual reproduction; it is every bit its equal and deserves to be read, as well as seen.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on November 18, 2016