Tony's Reviews > The Thief

The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura
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's review
May 22, 2012

did not like it
bookshelves: novels, translated-fiction
Read in January, 2012

Despite being regularly underwhelmed by Japanese crime fiction, I continue to pick it up in the hopes of finding a writer or story that clicks. Unfortunately, this book proved to be another dud. The story follows a highly talented pickpocket who meets up with an old friend/criminal and gets sucked into a scheme masterminded by a mysterious man. He is made the proverbial offer he can't refuse -- a series of increasingly difficult thefts that he must complete or he will be killed. This could theoretically work as the plot of a neo-noir thriller, except that the pickpocket is such a cipher that there's nothing for the reader to connect with. Like a lot of protagonists I seem to come across in Japanese crime fiction, he's a loner mired in his own sense of ennui. A subplot introduces a young boy whom he half-heartedly mentors and protects, but that comes across mainly as sentimental window-dressing. There's a lot of wallowing in existentialism, and conundrums about the nature and role of fate, and none of it says anything interesting. I could see how it might work much better as a stylish film, where the craft of the pickpocket can come more alive and the emptiness at its core can be given some visual heft, but I surely can't recommend this book. A better use of one's time would be to read Crime and Punishment and watch Robert Bresson's 1959 film, Pickpocket.
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08/04/2016 marked as: read

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