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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Japanese noir...
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...
Published 20 months ago by Raven

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Who stole the end?
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...
Published 23 months ago by Quicksilver


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Japanese noir..., 29 Nov 2012
By 
Raven (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Thief (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. The crime boss, Kizaki, is a debonair yet utterly ruthless man, who thinks nothing of using others as sacrificial pawns and using a high degree of reason and intelligence to achieve his aims.

A slim but ultimately satisfying read that rises above a simple tag of crime thriller into an altogether more literary exploration of the criminal mind that challenges the reader's assumptions at every turn. A tale of morality and redemption in equal measure. and an author that I will certainly return to in the future.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Who stole the end?, 16 Aug 2012
By 
Quicksilver (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Thief (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. Something with political and gangster connections. He cannot escape the destiny mapped out for him. Despite the thief's desire for isolation, he has one meaningful relationship in the world, and it is through this that the gangsters control him.

The Thief poses interesting questions about destiny and fate, and shows the perils of both forming emotional attachments and the futility of living life without them. The book is readable, but ultimately lightweight. It certainly isn't a patch on The Devotion Of Suspect X a book I consider to be one of the finest crime novels written in the last decade. Nakamura has created an interesting, conflicted narrator, but his story fails delivers on its promise.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura, 27 Sep 2012
This review is from: The Thief (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. The thief has only one real emotional attachment during the course of the narrative and it is this that the gangsters leverage to manipulate and control him - an interesting comment on the dangers and vulnerabilities of emotional connections in a life lived without them. Theft itself is used predominantly as a rumination on possession and ownership, and the morality of one's position to them.

There are numerous reflections on the role that fate plays in one's life and the novel becomes a meditation on a life lived outside of society, beyond the reach of conventional morality and social influences. The theme of fate is carried through right to the novel's ambiguous conclusion, the thief left in the uncertain land between life and death - where, after all, he has been from the novel's first page.

Nakamura's prose is elegant but stripped down to a stark minimalism. This works well with the protagonist's sense of ennui, but also strips the setting of any individuality; the thief could have been operating in any of the world's major cities, and this speaks to the universality of his condition. There is poetry in the prose too however, a mix of beauty with the indifferent that comes to represent the thief's own mentality. There was a certain jarring suddenness to many of the key events as the novel spiralled towards its conclusion, and this only added to the writing's potency and the sense of the thief's thin grasp on existence.

Some of the dialogue is very weak, with huge amounts of exposition and a very unnatural rhythm to many of the conversations - it's hard to say whether there is something lost in the translation or whether this is simply a stylistic trope, either of Nakamura's or of Japanese fiction in general, either way it reads badly to the Western ear.

Overall, there is a sense that the constituent elements of the novel are all slightly too thin to make this a wholly satisfying read; it lacks the punch of crime fiction, but neither does it have the depth of truly moving philosophy. It is a half-breed, but an intelligent, unusual, and well-considered piece of writing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Feel different Japan, meet master thief..., 17 Nov 2013
By 
Denis Vukosav - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Thief (Paperback)
Fuminori Nakamura's "The Thief" is first novel from Japanese author published in English and because of its quality I'm sad I'm not fluent in Japanese to be able to read in original.

Main character of novella is a skilled pickpocket, so skilled and accustomed to his work he sometimes cannot remember the source of the wallet discovered in his own pocket. Mentored by one of the best thieves, older guy named Ishikawa, with who he lost contact, now he is able to live from his profession. But he is also complicated man, not bothered how he will survive from day to day and sometimes he would give away all his loot to some a young boy's mother just to stop her from forcing him to steal supplies from the shop. But also he is thief with conscience and some kind of thief honesty, keeps only stolen cash and returns the wallets along with the credit cards to the owners by mail.

His mentor reappears in his life and offer him chance to earn lot of money doing easy job, but job unlike any other he was ever been involved with - an armed robbery with group of people. Job sounded maybe even too easy - break into someone's home, tie him up and steal everything in his safe. They do manage to have the job done, but it seems there is no way to return to their "normal" life, since their employer for that particular job was a ruthless boss who was not willing to let them go. Now thief is faced with question will and how he would be able to get out alive from this situation.

In same time he would be more and more involved with aforementioned mother and her son; he would feel like his life has finally found its purpose or even maybe find his will to live. Trying to save the boy in the end he would save himself, in the end becoming the person he could or maybe always been - a good man.

What is biggest surprise for reader living outside from Japan is completely different picture of Japan given in novella. We see "noir Japan", characters which are so untypical for humble and honest Japan we are all accustomed of. In this novella we learn lot about Japan, about its culture and people, something which cannot be seen on TV or read in newspapers.

This is a well-written novella, which can be equally put on shelves of crime fiction but also psychological drama. For sure this is a must read for any thriller lover.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The story of an unhappy man, 28 Mar 2012
This review is from: The Thief (Kindle Edition)
As the title suggests in this book we have the story of a thief; but not a thief like everybody else, but one with a conscience.
The action begins straight away as we watch our protagonist and narrator pick the wallet from the pocket of a rich man at the train station, while his next victim, a not so rich man riding the train is soon to follow. When it comes to pick-pocketing he's a master, however lately things don't seem to go as smoothly as they used to go. He keeps following his mentor's rules, stealing only cash and returning the wallets along with the credit cards to the rightful owners by mail, but somehow he now feels different, kind of unfulfilled, and he becomes really absent-minded. He also starts having short black-outs, during which he steals wallets without even realizing it, and he feels more sad by the day. It's as if there's a void inside of him that keeps growing and expanding, along with his loneliness: "I had built a wall around me and lived by sneaking into the gaps in the darkness of life," he says.
Well, that wall now seems to be coming tumbling down. But maybe he's not to blame for what is happening, but just life and its harsh realities. His fall from grace starts when Ishikawa, his mentor, asks for his help for a job unlike any other they've ever been involved with: an armed robbery. They do manage to have the job done, but from that point on there seems to be no way for them to return to their previews lives, since their employer for that particular job was a ruthless and fearless mob boss who was not willing to let them go; at least not alive. The protagonist who now has to cope with this new reality, whether he likes it or not starts to contemplate his life and his choices, and where the latter now lead him. As a pick-pocket he's great, but apart from that what else does he have or has he done in his life worth mentioning? Apparently nothing, or maybe just something, or somebody; somebody from the past, Saeko, a woman he used to love. However, the past is the past, now he needs to find something or someone to help him hold on to today. What, or who, could that be?
As it turns out he'll meet his new project in the faces of an unconventional team of thieves, a mother and her very young son. He'll spot the two of them as they'll be trying to steal some things from a supermarket and he'll save them from certain catastrophe; the amateurs. From that day onwards he'll feel like his life has finally found its purpose, or rather he'll rediscover his will to live. In the face of the young kid he's certain that he met a younger version of his own self and he's determined to help him create a better future for himself. And even though, at the kid's insistence he'll teach him some of his tricks, at the same time he'll try to save him from his miserable life. By saving the kid he saves himself, and by opposing and coming into conflict with his disgrace of a mother, in the end he becomes the person that he's actually always been; a good man.
This is a well-written novella, which even though it seems to belong under the crime fiction label, reads more like a psychological drama than a thriller.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very Japanese..., 30 May 2014
By 
Amanda Jenkinson "MandyJ" (Cheltenham) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Thief (Kindle Edition)
Compellingly readable, this short novel by acclaimed Japanese author Fuminori Nakamura, follows an expert pickpocket as he plies his trade on the streets and subways of crowded Tokyo. He appears to have no friends, no family – and no conscience. He lives and works alone, until one day an old partner offers him a job that he can’t refuse.

The laconic and terse style, and the noir atmosphere, make this a mesmerising read, and this totally amoral criminal weaves a kind of spell over the reader. At one point he even seems to show some fellow human feeling, which adds another layer to the book. Faultless in its way, I yet felt disappointed when I’d finished, even though I had been so absorbed whilst reading. With no back story, and no explanation as to how the protagonist became a thief, and with little character development, the whole book ultimately felt somewhat unsatisfactory. Some reviews talk of the psychological depth of the book, but I can’t agree with this, as this man exists in a kind of vacuum, hardly relating at all to the world around him, and there are too many unanswered questions which the author makes no attempt to address.

However, I would recommend it, both to crime aficionados and the general reader, as it’s certainly a “good read”.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book, 10 Oct 2013
This review is from: The Thief (Paperback)
From the start I was absorbed by the character in this book. I literraly felt I looked through his eyes while reading. Very film noir style of story and without giving away the plot, I liked the ending, very Japanese ending, so I fear many a Western reader might be a bit uncomfortable with the ending, but dont be, broaden the mind !

For a previous comment made by another reading, I dont think this book glorifies crime at all. Otherwise the character would not make such an effort with another character in the book, those who read it know what I mean. Again I dont want to spoil the story here for anyone.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful book, 29 May 2013
By 
JudithAnn (Houten, Netherlands) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Thief (Paperback)
This is a very well-written story about a pick-pocket. I loved reading about his methods to steals people's wallets and how he got into the profession. I didn't like it when he got involved with a gangster-type. It was not of his own volition and quite easy to see how this might happen. Still, what happened after that, was more interesting than I had expected.

The thief is clever and creative with his skills. Except for picking pockets, he seems quite an honest person, ready to help out others in need when he can. So, I quite liked him as a main character.

The story itself is sometimes confusing (I wasn't always sure what was happening now and in the past) but it stays interesting until the (bitter) ending.

What it lacked (a little) in plot, it more than made up by writing style and the topic. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this short book.
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3.0 out of 5 stars nice crime novel, 8 April 2013
This review is from: The Thief (Hardcover)
this book is a short story about a pick pocket in tokyo. I would recommend this to fiction crime book readers.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating crime novel, 27 Jan 2013
By 
L. H. Healy "Books are life, beauty and truth." (Cambridgeshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Thief (Hardcover)
The Thief works his way through the crowds in Tokyo, skillfully picking pockets as he goes. His techniques are described, and we observe him as he mixes with the throng of people in the city and identifies his targets, smoothly taking their wallets or other possessions, with them oblivious to his actions. He sometimes finds a wallet in his pocket that he himself doesn't even recall taking. He seems a very lonely man, with nothing to deter him from this life of crime, no loved ones. As the story progresses, we learn of a job he was involved in, with a gang of others, including his first partner in the art of thieving, Ishikawa. Having taken part in this job, the thief discovers afterwards that the man they robbed was in fact killed afterwards, and the man who organised this job isn't going to leave the thief alone, hence he is on the alert, always trying to be aware of potential danger.

We know little about the thief's life prior to the present time dealt with in the story; we learn he stole even as a child, and there is the symbol of a tower that dominated his recollections back then. He moves stealthily through the city, stealing from the rich, seemingly unscrupulous, but the thief is human after all; he makes a connection with a poor young boy on the streets, and can't help but try and improve his life in some way. This is a weakness, and he then realises his own life does actually mean something to him. When the thief is given three specific tasks to undertake, in the second half of the novel, I felt this really added to the tension and made me read on with interest and some nervousness.

This is a short novel compared to most other crime novels I read, at only just over 200 pages. The author won the OE, a prize for Japanese literary novels, in 2010 for this book. I felt this was a very good translation, it reads well. It's a fascinating crime novel, dark in tone, and it offers a sharp observation of an artful pickpocket, a portrait of a man detached from most of society, working alone, rich in monetary terms but leading an empty, shallow existence. I was intrigued enough to want to read on and discover the outcome for the thief, and where his growing bond with the young boy would lead. Ideally I would have liked to know more about the thief's origins, his original motivations perhaps. Was there every anything more to his life than what he has now? Reading groups could discuss the style of the writing, compare this novel to other crime writing, and also debate the morality of the characters and their actions.
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The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura (Paperback - 16 May 2013)
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