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A literary crime masterpiece that follows a Japanese pickpocket lost to the machinations of fate. Bleak and oozing existential dread, The Thief is simply unforgettable.  

The Thief is a seasoned pickpocket. Anonymous in his tailored suit, he weaves in and out of Tokyo crowds, stealing wallets from strangers so smoothly sometimes he doesn’t even remember the snatch. Most people are just a blur to him, nameless faces from whom he chooses his victims. He has no family, no friends, no connections.... But he does have a past, which finally catches up with him when Ishikawa, his first partner, reappears in his life, and offers him a job he can’t refuse. It’s an easy job: tie up an old rich man, steal the contents of the safe. No one gets hurt. Only the day after the job does he learn that the old man was a prominent politician, and that he was brutally killed after the robbery. And now the Thief is caught in a tangle even he might not be able to escape.


From the Hardcover edition.
Published: Random House Publishing Group on
ISBN: 9781616950224
List price: $9.99
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From a Western point of view, this is an unusual story told from the thief's point of view.The first signs that things may not be well are the things that appear in his pockets that he doesn't remember lifting. Has he in his turn been the victim of a skilled pickpocket?He has been a thief all his life, always coveting the treasures other children had, and gradually perfecting his techniques as a pickpocket. He specialises in replacing the wallets after he has removed what he wants, so the victim does not immediately realise his cash has been taken.He is alarmed when he meets a boy who shoplifts with his mother and who is setting his sights on life as a pickpocket. He tries to divert the boy, at first refusing to show him any techniques, and then by giving him money to adopt a better life.The murder of the old man in the house robbery leaves The Thief ensnared in a trap where he is required to steal to order. Failure to carry out the thefts will result in his own death and each task gets harder than the last. He realises he may not be around much longer.Many other reviewers have commented on the gritty view the novel gives of the underbelly of Tokyo life.It is a surprisingly short audio book, but is apparently unabridged although Amazon says the hard back version is 304 pages. At first I was put off by the narrator's American accent, but then became used to it.more
The language in this novel is strongly reminiscent of Haruki Murakami in its starkness and psychological nature. The reader is taken inside the mind of a highly accomplished pickpocket in Japan which is a fertile field of moral ambiguity. What makes a thief tick? What does a thief give up to be good at what he does? What does a thief run towards and run from? These are a few of the issues addressed in this story. Strongly recommend taking this revealing psychological journey.more
A quick piece of noir fiction. The plot is a sketchy bit about a pickpocket drawn against his will into performing crimes for what appears to be a Tokyo underworld figure. It turns a little philosophical as it presents questions of determinism and fatalism and alienation. These larger issues, and the fate of the pickpocket, aren't settled by the book's finale, a nervy coup de grâce that nearly redeems the story for me.I regret that it doesn't really give much sense of contemporary Japan. The atmosphere is generic and flat and the book almost could have been set in any very large city.Slight, but enjoyable.more
The Thief in question is a talented pickpocket who takes pleasure in stealing from the rich and prides himself on the skill with which he can separate any man from his wallet. He's got the whole process down to a science, isn't wanting for anything and enjoys his freedom and independence. Things start changing for him when he encounters a young boy who is forced by his mother to steal groceries. The boy is needing some tips on how to become a more accomplished thief and our man is only too glad to share his knowledge on that score. Then an old thieving partner reappears in his life and gets him involved in an assignment he can't refuse; participating in an armed robbery for the Yakuza. The plan is meticulously worked out and the reap seems too good to be true. The Thief has misgivings about the robbery and his suspicions are about to prove to be well founded. This is a good story which is sure to appeal to many, but which for some reason failed to grab me. Could it have something to do with the audio version and a narrator I didn't like? That certainly couldn't have helped, but there were elements in the story itself which I'd be hard pressed to put my finger on which simply didn't appeal to me, so I was all the more happy that this was a short affair.more
The Thief (scheduled for a March 2012 release) is Japanese author Fuminori Nakamura’s first novel to be published in English. Judging from the quality of The Thief, I believe it is safe to say that it will not be his last. The young author, already a winner of multiple literary prizes in his native Japan, seems destined soon for wider recognition of his talents.“The Thief” in this story is such an accomplished pickpocket that he sometimes goes on automatic pilot, even to the point that he cannot remember the source of the wallet full of money he later discovers in his own pocket. He was trained by one of the best in the business, an older man named Ishikawa, and the skills he learned provide him with a good living. Now, Ishikawa reappears and offers our Thief the chance at some easy money to be earned as part of a gang contracted to perform a “sure thing” breaking and entering job. All the gang has to do is break into a man’s home, tie him up, and steal everything in his safe – everything. But, of course, when something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. When the surprisingly prominent target ends up dead, all the Thief really understands about the crime is that he will be lucky to survive his participation in it. Fuminori Nakamura’s Thief is a complicated man, one not at all bothered by how he makes his living but, especially when it comes to children, still a softie at heart. Because it is so easy for him to acquire cash, the Thief even allows himself a touch of Robin Hoodish behavior on occasion - as in when he gives away a whole day’s take on the streets to stop a young boy’s mother from forcing him repeatedly to shoplift the food and supplies she wants. The Thief exposes a bit of Japan’s underbelly that will surprise many readers, but that is one of the benefits of reading translated crime fiction. The genre, even one like The Thief that is long on noir, reveals much about a country’s personality and culture that otherwise remains hidden from the casual observer. This is a worthy addition to any crime fiction lover’s bookshelves. Enjoy. Rated at: 4.0more
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Reviews

From a Western point of view, this is an unusual story told from the thief's point of view.The first signs that things may not be well are the things that appear in his pockets that he doesn't remember lifting. Has he in his turn been the victim of a skilled pickpocket?He has been a thief all his life, always coveting the treasures other children had, and gradually perfecting his techniques as a pickpocket. He specialises in replacing the wallets after he has removed what he wants, so the victim does not immediately realise his cash has been taken.He is alarmed when he meets a boy who shoplifts with his mother and who is setting his sights on life as a pickpocket. He tries to divert the boy, at first refusing to show him any techniques, and then by giving him money to adopt a better life.The murder of the old man in the house robbery leaves The Thief ensnared in a trap where he is required to steal to order. Failure to carry out the thefts will result in his own death and each task gets harder than the last. He realises he may not be around much longer.Many other reviewers have commented on the gritty view the novel gives of the underbelly of Tokyo life.It is a surprisingly short audio book, but is apparently unabridged although Amazon says the hard back version is 304 pages. At first I was put off by the narrator's American accent, but then became used to it.more
The language in this novel is strongly reminiscent of Haruki Murakami in its starkness and psychological nature. The reader is taken inside the mind of a highly accomplished pickpocket in Japan which is a fertile field of moral ambiguity. What makes a thief tick? What does a thief give up to be good at what he does? What does a thief run towards and run from? These are a few of the issues addressed in this story. Strongly recommend taking this revealing psychological journey.more
A quick piece of noir fiction. The plot is a sketchy bit about a pickpocket drawn against his will into performing crimes for what appears to be a Tokyo underworld figure. It turns a little philosophical as it presents questions of determinism and fatalism and alienation. These larger issues, and the fate of the pickpocket, aren't settled by the book's finale, a nervy coup de grâce that nearly redeems the story for me.I regret that it doesn't really give much sense of contemporary Japan. The atmosphere is generic and flat and the book almost could have been set in any very large city.Slight, but enjoyable.more
The Thief in question is a talented pickpocket who takes pleasure in stealing from the rich and prides himself on the skill with which he can separate any man from his wallet. He's got the whole process down to a science, isn't wanting for anything and enjoys his freedom and independence. Things start changing for him when he encounters a young boy who is forced by his mother to steal groceries. The boy is needing some tips on how to become a more accomplished thief and our man is only too glad to share his knowledge on that score. Then an old thieving partner reappears in his life and gets him involved in an assignment he can't refuse; participating in an armed robbery for the Yakuza. The plan is meticulously worked out and the reap seems too good to be true. The Thief has misgivings about the robbery and his suspicions are about to prove to be well founded. This is a good story which is sure to appeal to many, but which for some reason failed to grab me. Could it have something to do with the audio version and a narrator I didn't like? That certainly couldn't have helped, but there were elements in the story itself which I'd be hard pressed to put my finger on which simply didn't appeal to me, so I was all the more happy that this was a short affair.more
The Thief (scheduled for a March 2012 release) is Japanese author Fuminori Nakamura’s first novel to be published in English. Judging from the quality of The Thief, I believe it is safe to say that it will not be his last. The young author, already a winner of multiple literary prizes in his native Japan, seems destined soon for wider recognition of his talents.“The Thief” in this story is such an accomplished pickpocket that he sometimes goes on automatic pilot, even to the point that he cannot remember the source of the wallet full of money he later discovers in his own pocket. He was trained by one of the best in the business, an older man named Ishikawa, and the skills he learned provide him with a good living. Now, Ishikawa reappears and offers our Thief the chance at some easy money to be earned as part of a gang contracted to perform a “sure thing” breaking and entering job. All the gang has to do is break into a man’s home, tie him up, and steal everything in his safe – everything. But, of course, when something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. When the surprisingly prominent target ends up dead, all the Thief really understands about the crime is that he will be lucky to survive his participation in it. Fuminori Nakamura’s Thief is a complicated man, one not at all bothered by how he makes his living but, especially when it comes to children, still a softie at heart. Because it is so easy for him to acquire cash, the Thief even allows himself a touch of Robin Hoodish behavior on occasion - as in when he gives away a whole day’s take on the streets to stop a young boy’s mother from forcing him repeatedly to shoplift the food and supplies she wants. The Thief exposes a bit of Japan’s underbelly that will surprise many readers, but that is one of the benefits of reading translated crime fiction. The genre, even one like The Thief that is long on noir, reveals much about a country’s personality and culture that otherwise remains hidden from the casual observer. This is a worthy addition to any crime fiction lover’s bookshelves. Enjoy. Rated at: 4.0more
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