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Two Good Thieves Hardcover – Unabridged, 3 Jul 2009
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There are three things you need to be a good thief. You need to be faster than the speed of light. You need to be invisible. And, most of all, you need to be lucky. Baz and Demi have always been lucky.
About the Author
Daniel Finn is a well-travelled teacher and writer who has written several books for younger readers, published under another name. When he started to write Two Good Thieves, he knew it was different from anything else he'd done - so he started to lead a double-life, with two names and two very different writing styles. He lives and works in Surrey, with his wife and two grown-up children. He is currently writing a second book, set in the same country as Two Good Thieves, which will be published by Macmillan in 2010.
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Age 11 upwards
It centres on Baz and Demi (so called as he's only half a man so far) who were sort of adopted/found by Fay (as in Fay-gin?), ex-hooker and leader of her own band of juvenile pickpockets. Everyday the youngsters leave the Barrio (shantytown that they call home) as instructed to go to town or the station in pairs to do their thieving. Demi (boy) is definitely the cock of the walk with the fast hands in the gang, ably assisted by his "eyes and ears" in the form of Baz (girl). They exist peaceably enough until they one day steal a ring from the wrong person - the Chief of Police's wife. Almost caught and with the possibility of being sent to The Castle (prison) from which people rarely return hanging over them, they return "home" to find all hell as broken loose. News travels fast in the Barrio and Senor Moro, Barrio Godfather wants his cut. The Chief of Police just wants blood in a town where life is cheap.
Thus, the can of worms is opened and life is never the same. Loyalties are stretched and the tough love Fay dishes out becomes tougher, the trust between her and Demi and Baz hangs by a thread. When a smartly dressed stranger comes into their den with a "business proposition" they are right to be cautious - they want to know who this man is to Fay and why she hangs on his every word.
Demi and Baz are the Butch and Sundance in this story, their unquestioning friendship and banter is a joy though many of the other characters are difficult to like. We are kept guessing until the end if Fay is good, evil or maybe both. It is a hard story of survival, treachery and violence. It's Slumdog meets Dickens and can be difficult reading in parts - I actually didn't realise it was aimed at children until I saw the cover note. If so, definitely older kids/teens, but having said that it's probably a lot less disturbing than that old school favourite, Lord of the Flies. I'm still not sure if it was a happy ending or not. Often very dry and for me slightly long, I'd be lying if I said I loved every bit of it but it was quite a memorable read (7/10).
Baz is a street thief, and has been since Demi found her sleeping rough, a little lost girl. Demi is the best thief there is, and Baz has been his lookout for years. They live with Fay, the woman who taught them everything they know, and her little band of thieves.
But things are changing in the city, and trouble is coming. Then Demi makes a lucky snatch, which swiftly turns out to be not so lucky after all. Danger stalks Baz and her friends, and soon threatens to take away everything they've ever known.
Full of the heat, danger and harsh realities of the streets, this story builds steadily in excitement and races towards the finish. It's a hard world Baz lives in, yet somehow she manages to hold onto herself and those she cares about, even as trouble, betrayal and murder surround her.
Tough and gritty, like the kids themselves, this book sweeps you into this shadowy, lost world and doesn't let go without a fight.
The central character is a twelve year old girl (Baz) and the story is told largely from her perspective. She quickly and completely wins your affection. The other main characters also often have unexpected depth.
If you were to read this as a documentary the plot becomes fantastic - but it is an adventure story that may help to bring awareness of the children and others who are condemned in the real world to a grim and horrible life and death.
The attention to detail in the descriptions of place was also a problem for me - occasionally it worked really well, brought scenes to life with vivid, dirty clarity - and in others I just thought 'can't we get on with the story...'
It's very much a modern Oliver Twist with a flavour of Slum Dog Millionaire and sadly it dilutes the qualities of both those stories into something less satisfying.
The story was pretty good and there was the odd nice twist but overall, a 3 star read.