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The Thief [Kindle Edition]

Fuminori Nakamura
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)

Digital List Price: $11.99 What's this?
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Kindle Price: $8.39
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Hardcover, Bargain Price $9.20  
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Book Description

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.

Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, March 2012: In Fuminori Nakamura's new novel, the main character weaves along the streets of Tokyo pickpocketing his way through the flow of humanity, as if in a dream. He lifts wallets filled with cash and credit cards with a masterful ease, his mind occupied with a trance-like debate about whether to care anymore. Whether to care about the young kid he sees clumsily stealing food at a supermarket. Whether to care about his partner, who disappeared after a botched robbery years ago. Oscillating between the real connection he establishes with the shoplifting boy and the drug-like daze of his own criminal past, the thief drifts back into the clutches of the mastermind of that ill-fated robbery. And the thief starts to wake up, only to realize that a noose is being carefully, and slowly, drawn around his neck. --Benjamin Moebius


A Los Angeles Times Book Prize 2013 FINALIST
A Wall Street Journal BEST FICTON OF 2012 SELECTION
A Wall Street Journal BEST MYSTERY OF 2012
A World Literature Today NOTABLE TRANSLATION

*A World Literature Today Notable Translation of the Year
*An Amazon Best Mystery/Thriller of the Month
*Winner of Japan’s Prestigious Oe Prize

"The Thief brings to mind Highsmith, Mishima and Doestoevsky... A chilling philosophical thriller leaving readers in doubt without making them feel in any way cheated."
 —The Wall Street Journal, BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR selection

“Nakamura's prose is cut-to-the-bone lean, but it moves across the page with a seductive, even voluptuous agility. I defy you not to finish the book in a single sitting.” Richmond Times Dispatch

"His grasp of the seamy underbelly of the city is why Nakamura is one of the most award-winning young guns of Japanese hardboiled detective writing."
Daily Beast

“Fascinating. I want to write something like The Thief someday myself."
Natsuo Kirino, bestselling author of Edgar-nominated Out and Grotesque

"It's simple and utterly compelling - great beach reading for the deeply cynical. If you crossed Michael Connelly and Camus and translated it from Japanese."

Sacramento Bee
“Page-Turner” pick

“Disguised as fast-paced, shock-fueled crime fiction, Thief resonates even more as a treatise on contemporary disconnect and paralyzing isolation.”
Library Journal

“I was deeply impressed with The Thief. It is fresh.”
Kenzaburo Oe, Nobel Prize–winning author of A Personal Matter

“Nakamura’s memorable antihero, at once as believably efficient as Donald Westlake’s Parker and as disaffected as a Camus protagonist, will impress genre and literary readers alike."
Publishers Weekly

“Fast-paced, elegantly written, and rife with the symbols of inevitability.”

“Compulsively readable for its portrait of a dark, crumbling, graffiti-scarred Tokyo—and the desire to understand the mysterious thief.”

“The drily philosophical tone and the noir atmosphere combine perfectly, providing a rapid and enjoyable "read" that is nonetheless cool and distant, provoking the reader to think about (as much as experience) the tale.”
International Noir Fiction

"The Thief manages to wrap you up in its pages, tightly, before you are quite aware of it."
Mystery Scene

“Nakamura succeeds in creating a complicated crime novel in which the focus is not on the crimes themselves but rather on the psychology and physicality of the criminal. The book’s power inheres in the voice of the thief, which is itself as meticulously rendered as the thief’s every action.”
Three Percent

"Unique and engrossing."
Mystery People

"Readers will be enthralled by this story that offers an extremely surprising ending."—Suspense Magazine

“Along the way the reader catches glimpses of Japan and its lifestyle, which is far from a pretty picture”
Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine

“More than a crime novel, The Thief is a narrative that delves deep into the meaning of theft and the nature of justice....Japanese crime fiction has a new star."
Out of the Gutter

“So many issues are raised in this novel. It is wonderfully brief, and spare, much like something Hemingway would write."
Dolce Bellezza Blog

Product Details

  • File Size: 1065 KB
  • Print Length: 221 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B00C2IKY2C
  • Publisher: Soho Crime; 1 edition (March 20, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0058ZITZK
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #122,239 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A sad tale in any language April 4, 2012
As much as I read, I read plenty of novels in translation. I neither seek them out nor avoid them. But as a not especially well-traveled American, I do always have a gnawing feeling that I'm lacking the cultural context to fully appreciate the tale I'm reading. And while that's certainly no fault of the author's, that was again the feeling I had while reading Fuminori Nakamura's novella, The Thief.

It is about--you won't be surprised to learn--a thief, specifically a pickpocket. Now, Japanese popular culture has disavowed me of any notion that theirs is a gentler, more upstanding society than my own. Much of what I've seen out of Japan is even harsher than what we Americans produce. Still, I have an idea that with the prominent role of honor in their society, that to be a thief in Japan is somehow... different than it is here. More of a break with the mainstream, but perhaps I'm overanalyzing.

What I can tell you is that the thief at the heart of this novel is a rather tragic character. Through the course of this brief tale, we get some inkling about how he came to his life of crime. Part of it was circumstance, but much of it was in his nature. For this man, to steal is almost a reflexive action, at times completely unconscious. A psychologist might have a few things to say. Regardless, he lives a very isolated life.

During the course of this story, two notable things occur: a woman and her child come into his life, and he comes to the attention of a bigger fish. Regarding the woman and the child--do not in any way assume you can guess the nature of those relationships based on that sentence. Regarding the bigger fish, he's a scary man. He coerces this pickpocket into participating in some illegal activities.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fate shows no mercy March 20, 2012
The Thief is a Japanese version of noir, a dark psychological thriller that builds suspense rapidly as Nishimura, a pickpocket who often seems to be on the verge of a breakdown, becomes ensnared in the grip of a shadowy underworld figure in Tokyo. Nishimura's tension is palpable in the novel's early pages. He finds wallets in his pocket he does not remember stealing. He catches glimpses of a mysterious tower that he often saw in his childhood, a tower that may never have existed and that becomes a recurring, haunting image as the story progresses.

Nishimura imagines seeing his mentor, Ishikawa, as he looks into the faces of homeless men. For Ishikawa, picking pockets carried the ecstatic thrill of artistry. Not so for Nishimura as he nervously ponders Ishikawa's fate. The two men were wrapped up in a serious crime, more serious than Nishimura anticipated, and he hasn't seen Ishikawa since. The man who masterminded that crime soon recruits Nishimura to steal three things. The difficult assignments will tax Nishimura's skill as a pickpocket, but he is threatened with death if he fails.

The criminals in The Thief are unusually philosophical. Nishimura wonders whether there is "something deep-rooted in our nature" that compels people to steal. As a child he equated stealing with freedom; as an adult he's less certain of that equation. He thinks about how he has "rejected community" by reaching out his hands to steal, how he has "built a wall around myself and lived by sneaking into the gaps in the darkness of life." The mastermind, on the other hand, discusses the importance of balance, the need to feel sympathy and pity for a victim while torturing her to death.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Softie at Heart March 27, 2012
The Thief 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.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars An updated retelling of Robert Bresson's 1960 film PICKPOCKET
Nakamura very successfully retells Robert Bresson's great 1960 film PICKPOCKET in a style very similar to the lean style of the film. Read more
Published 10 days ago by Amazonian
4.0 out of 5 stars Spare, short, fast-moving and thoughtful
The Thief is a tense, fast-moving, yet thoughtful novel about a pickpocket and his entanglement with people (especially a child, and a ruthless gangster). Read more
Published 18 days ago by Raghuveer Parthasarathy
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting story of pickpocket on the streets of Japan
I felt the author had an excellent grasp on the psychology of this small time criminal. The pickpocket is drawn into a darker, more dangerous series of mysterious crimes that... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Tom Monk
2.0 out of 5 stars Anticlimactic
Great writing and interesting story that just abruptly ends without reason. There's no resolution and the reader is left wondering why she spent hours of her life reading this... Read more
Published 2 months ago by C. Martin
4.0 out of 5 stars Brief but beautifully evocative
Brief but beautifully evocative, sparse yet hugely informative, THE THIEF is another example of Japanese noir sensibility. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Good crime novel
Good crime novel. As for me, the point of this book was: once in the underworld, always there. Even you make small crimes, there will always be something that will pull you into... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Alex
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly tense psychological thriller
"The Thief" offers an incredibly tense pscyhological thriller along with a fast-paced plot and a complex and interesting protagonist. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Dr. L
3.0 out of 5 stars four star plot two Nd a half star execution
Pickpocket as loner.caught in a fate he couldn't understand much less embrace. Writing is sparer than Hemingway. Lightning quick read.
Published 7 months ago by Steve Reid
4.0 out of 5 stars Read it in a day. Interesting depiction of a thieves world with...
Cinematic and engaging, with interesting characters and fast moving and suspenseful plot. First page turner I've read in a couple of yeata
Published 8 months ago by Voracious reader
3.0 out of 5 stars Pickpocket
I was intrigued by Fuminori Nakamura's novel, The Thief. Translated from Japanese, the novel presents an image of contemporary society from the perspective of a pickpocket. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Stephen T. Hopkins
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