Monday, January 9, 2017

book journal: A Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam by Chris Ewan

This year, Mr. Nomadreader and I are starting a new tradition for our family: we hope to visit one new country each year with Hawthorne. Our family is complete, and I'm excited to be starting a new family tradition. Hawthorne will be two and a half next month (!), and we're ready to start showing him the world. Our first destination: Amsterdam, this spring. While we've been studying the guidebooks and planning our days, I've also been busy making lists of fiction I want to read that is set in Amsterdam, both past and present.

I've been intrigued by Chris Ewan's The Good Thief series, as each one is set in a different city, but our trip made me pick up his first in the series, The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam. The titular good thief is Charlie Howard, a novelist who writes books about a globetrotting thief named Faulks. He also secretly works as a thief himself.

There is a lot going on in this novel. In its opening pages, Charlie gets an intriguing offer to steal two monkey figurines to match the set's third (it's a classic see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.) It seems too good to be true, and predictably, things go terribly wrong. Thankfully, they go wrong in an incredibly fascinating and compelling way. As things are going awry in the thieving life, Charlie is also struggling with a key plot point in the manuscript of his latest novel he's submitted to his agent and confidante, Victoria. While the plot of his novel is interesting, and provides keen insights into Charlie's mind (as well as a few carefully placed similarities to the case he's working in real life), the star of this show is figuring out the thieving mystery.

Considering how much danger and death there is in this novel, it feels comedic at times (and partly farcical.) Ewan pulls off this tone well. While some of the twists in this novel are expected to those who are fans of mysteries, I got the sense Ewan wanted the audience to expect some of the twists, so when he pulled the real ones, I was even more surprised (and impressed.) This novel feels like a combination of homage and something new. Although it's his debut novel, he writes with the skill of his character, Charlie, who has been novels under his belt.

I chose this novel for both its location and its premise, and I thoroughly enjoyed both. Because we'll be in Amsterdam this spring, I took the time to look up some of the locations I wouldn't otherwise have done as I read, and Ewan seems to captures the ambiance and neighborhoods well. Most importantly, he ties the geography to the characters and mystery. I'll definitely be reading the next novel in this series, The Good Thief's Guide to Paris. Even if you're not heading to Amsterdam soon (or if you've already been), The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam is a fun, funny, engaging and twisty read.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Length: 240 pages
Publication date: November 2007
Source: library 

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam from Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Chris Ewan's website and follow him on Twitter.

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