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.
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