Eric_W's Reviews > The Thefts of Nick Velvet

The Thefts of Nick Velvet by Edward D. Hoch
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's review
Jan 04, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: mysteries-and-thrillers
Read in January, 2002

This is a collection of stories that I ran across somewhere. Clearly, Lawrence Block was not the first to create the congenial thief, nor was Donald Westlake. Nick Velvet — he changed his name from Velvetta to avoid the obvious confusion — takes on rather bizarre assignments. In one case he was hired to steal — and keep — the water from a particular swimming pool. He learned later that the water was to be used as evidence by the daughter of the owner's first wife to prove that her stepfather had murdered her mother. Rarely does Nick steal anything of ostensible monetary value. In "The Theft of the Clouded Tiger," he is hired to steal a rare tiger from a zoo for a Persian prince. In this case he profits handsomely but only by using the tiger to dispatch the real villains of the story. Unlike James Bond, whom Hoch originally intended Nick to be patterned after, Nick remains faithful to his girlfriend, Gloria, and he doesn't require the vast array of gadgets that make James Bond stories such fun for technophiles. In a truly classic story, "The Theft of the Meager Beavers," Nick is hired by the small country of Jabali to steal an entire major league baseball team. It seems the country's president has gone to great lengths to create a team for his country, but they have no one to play. Not wishing to disrupt the pennant race, Nick pours over the standings and selects the last place Beavers. As in all the stories, nothing is as it appears, and sure enough, Nick's sixth sense warns him that the nine members of the baseball team, the nine seashells on Jabali's flag, the Nine House, where the president resides, and the nine members of a firing squad all have considerable significance. In other stories, Nick is stolen himself, and has to make off with seven ravens. These are a lot of fun.

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