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The Thief Paperback – 16 May 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Corsair (16 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1472105877
  • ISBN-13: 978-1472105875
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 259,761 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A masterpiece in miniature . . . wonderfully deft . . . The Thief seems destined to become a landmark thriller. (Daily Mail)

An intelligent, compelling and surprisingly moving tale, and highly recommended. (Laura Wilson The Guardian)

Nakamura's achievement is to dovetail the various elements in the most adroit of fashions, producing a mesmeric piece of crime fiction and a cold-eyed meditation on modern society in which predatory human nature is accepted as the norm. And the author's fatalistic tone is rounded off with a devastatingly surprising end. (The Independent)

Nakamura is a name to watch. (Daily Mirror)

Japanese fiction is the new Scandicrime - and if The Thief is anything to go by, it is apparently just as dark and plentiful. A detective story told from the other side of the fence, brilliantly spun in the narrative voice of a skilled pickpocket. (The Pulse)

Beautifully written and elegantly crafted. (The Lady)

A psychological thriller that will grip your imagination from the very first page. (Crime Ficton Lover)

A meditation on what it is like to be alone and on the nature of fate and free will, and featuring a lead character who would look at home in a 19th century Russian novel.' (Big Issue)

The Thief is a swift piece of crime noir, surprisingly light on grit but weighted by existential dread. 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. (Grantland)

Nakamura is one of the most award-winning young guns of Japanese hard-boiled detective writing . . . his award-winning novel The Thief does for Japanese fiction what John Woo did for Chinese film-making: bringing the darker side to a [western] audience. (Daily Beast)

A mystery novel more in the tradition of Dostoevsky than Agatha Christie . . . Fuminori Nakamura's noir transforms from a mood piece into a chilling philosophical thriller. (Wall Street Journal)

It's the combination of thoughtful, noir-tinged character piece with punchy, well-plotted thriller that puts The Thief ahead of the pack. (Glasgow Herald)

Book Description

A Toyko pickpocket commits one crime too many - and finds himself way out of his depth. A taut, stylish noir thriller from one of the most feted new voices in Japanese fiction.

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Raven TOP 500 REVIEWER on 29 Nov. 2012
Format: Hardcover
I must admit to having read very little Japanese crime fiction, but drawn by a cover quote from Natsuo Kirino, the author of the remarkable `Out', I was immediately hooked by this bijou slice of Japanese noir. Centred on the criminal activities of pickpocket, Nishimura, this is a at times shocking, but poignant tale of the seedy underbelly of Tokyo. Nishimura spends his days targeting prosperous looking individuals with his deft pickpocketing skills but then finds himself coerced by a fellow friend and member of the criminal fraternity into a seemingly straightforward house invasion that leads to murder. Manipulated by an enigmatic and philosophical crime boss, Kizaki, he finds himself in a desperate situation and is forced to take part in another job that leads himself into great peril. Running alongside this we also see a tentative friendship develop between Nishimura and a young boy who is falling into criminal ways due to the instability of his home life, and this relationship is beautifully captured as Nishimura, himself a criminal, attempts to liberate his protege from a life of crime.

This book is wonderful example of less being so much more with its brevity of narrative style and the compact nature of its prose. Despite its sparseness of style it captures all the salient details of location and atmosphere of everyday life in Tokyo, and the grim human experiences that lurk beneath this quintessentially modern metropolis. The characterisation is pitch perfect as Nishimura is raised from the status of common thief to an all to human protagonist, attempting to rescue the young boy and also by the references to Saeko, a former lover, whose absence impacts strongly on Nishimura's psyche.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Quicksilver TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 16 Aug. 2012
Format: Hardcover
I don't know if it's supposed to a clever postmodernist twist, but somebody seems to have stolen the ending of 'The Thief'. The story is a first person narrative, and whilst the novel's conclusion doesn't quite break the number one rule of first person narratives, it ends in such a way to leave the reader bewildered as to how the story could ever have come be told. It's an open end, but not in a good way. It's open in a 'why did you bother to tell the story, if you were going to leave it like that?' way.

It's a shame as the rest of the book is pretty good. The Thief is the the third Japanese crime novel I've read, and they all have a similar narrative style. Pared down prose, and unsensational storytelling that focuses on the frustrating details of life. None of them have felt particularly Japanese, and I suspect if names hade been changed I could happily have believed the story to be set in the US, UK or perhaps if you could imagine such a thing, Scandanavia. Some may consider this lack of a sense of place a drawback. I don't particularly mind, as long as the story is strong.

Our narrator is a pickpocket, and his tale makes his crimes feel like magic. He's a loner. He steals for money, he steals for fun, he steals for revenge. He even steals without realising it. The novel has a metaphysical thread running through it. The Thief occasionally narrates otherworldly events, that could not happen, yet he seems totally convinced of. These episodes combined with the spare prose, reminded me of James Sallis', The Killer is Dying

The central story is old, but well told. The Thief is pulled into something bigger than he can handle.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Matthew ( on 27 Sept. 2012
Format: Hardcover
The Thief (2009) by Fuminori Nakamura, newly translated into English, is crime noir with an existential twist, set on the streets of Tokyo. The narrator, whose real name is alluded to only once, goes nameless throughout the novel and is known primarily as `the thief'. A pick pocket, the thief is an artist of petty crime. He steals from the rich and the unpleasant to make a living. Well versed in the history and craft of his profession, the thief's life moulds effortlessly with his work: he is a loner without connection to the world and who can pass through a room, a crowded street, a city, unnoticed. So practiced is he that the thief steals by instinct, barely engaging his mind throughout his work, and so it runs onto to other thoughts: more profound and metaphysical issues. It is these streams of consciousness that the reader is made party too throughout as the thief goes about his routine. But, when he makes a rare emotional connection with a young boy, the thief leaves himself vulnerable and, after meeting an old friend, is pulled into dangerous circles, mixing with gangsters who will play with his life as though it is meaningless. They force the thief to perform a number of increasingly difficult thefts in order to save his life, but who is truly in control of the thief's destiny; himself, the gangsters, fate or something larger?

The thief is a loner, trapped in a solitary existence and burdened by his own sense of ennui. Living life on the margins of society, he leaves no mark on the world; he is a nameless, faceless apparition that silently haunts the chaos which surrounds him; he represents the marginalised Other. The grimy world of the novel is a harsh place where almost all the relationships are predatory and the world is indifferent to one's existence.
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