Oh Good Thief. What is there to say about you? Your plot was fine, your characterization was fine, the writing was fine. Everything was…adequate. And while adequacy may be the hallmark of great journalism, it makes for lousy afternoon reading.
Ok, mad plot spoilers below. Like, all of them, so only slog through the next three paragraphs if you want to pretend you’ve read this without actually reading it. Because looking back, the entire thing is kind of ludicrous and to save time, I’m going to use the % to mark WTF-moments.
The Good Thief is the story of the one-handed orphan Ren, and how he grows up in the orphanage and is passed over by potential boy-buyers because of his one hand, and then snatched up by Benjamin Nab and taught to lie and thieve (which, to be honest, he was already doing back at the orphanage) and somehow they end up stealing corpses to sell % and then one of the corpses turns out to be alive %, and not only alive but a giant (Andre-style) % and then the giant and Ren become best friends % and they bring him back to Mrs Sand’s place where they’ve been staying for free and where Ren has discovered Mrs Sand’s dwarf brother living on the roof in secret %.
Then one night, while Ren et al are out digging up corpses they are caught by the local mousetrap-factory-owner % who has a monopoly on dirty deeds (done dirt cheap) and resents them treading on his turf, and who, by the bye, is also Ren’s long-lost uncle % and who locks Ren in a side-closet but then brings him toys but then admits that he was the one who lopped off the infant-Ren’s hand and then pulls out the hand that he’s KEPT FOR ALL THESE YEARS %%%, all in an attempt to scare the name of Ren’s father out of him (note: Ren was a squalling infant when his mother died and the man who knocked her up ran off, so clearly this strategy has merit) but Ren is rescued by one of the factory workers with a harelip and gets back to Mrs Sand’s house, except that by this point she’s been taken with the influenza and is up at the hospital.
So Ren and the giant and the dwarf are hanging around Mrs Sand’s place when the mousetrap mogul’s henchmen come for them, and then the giant and the dwarf help Ren escape but it’s all for naught because he’s caught again and incidentally, so is Benjamin, who turns out to be Ren’s father after all % and who rigs it so that the mousetrap mogul signs his fortune over to Ren, and then the mogul is rather abruptly killed by…one of the factory workers? This part isn’t really clear and kind of anti-climactic, but at any rate Ren gets off scot free with a giant fortune and Mrs Sand and the dwarf but not the giant, because he died, and not Benjamin either because he had to run from the law. The end.
So there’s all that. And while it sounds kind of exciting, and WTF-books are sometimes the best books, The Good Thief just sort of…went. I mean, stuff happened, but it never really felt like stuff was happening. And I never connected with any of the characters, and I feel like I missed something because everyone talks about this book with such laudatory language. And it’s not a bad book. It’s adequate.