BookBrowse Reviews The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Thief

by Fuminori Nakamura

The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura X
The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2012, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2013, 304 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Karen Rigby

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


A Japanese thriller about a Tokyo pickpocket who unintentionally becomes involved with a series of political assassinations

Winner of Japan's 2009 Ōe Prize (an award for literary novels judged by Nobel laureate Kenzaburō Ōe), Nakamura's English-language debut chronicles the aftermath of a "perfect crime" in which the titular thief plays a small role. It also delineates the time leading up to and after the moment when the crime's mastermind ensnares him with another three jobs.

Using this spare plot as its basis, Nakamura deftly creates the tale of a Tokyo pickpocket while exploring questions of fate and manipulation. Here, the underworld bears little trace of the glamor that sometimes occurs in works featuring an anti-hero. As this criminal world consumes its members along with its victims, readers are treated to an empathetic portrayal of a man whose desire for life resurfaces under duress.

The thief - whose name is revealed once in a quick aside - robs only the rich, without violence; keeps only the cash; returns the wallets he steals; and helps others - notably a young boy whose mother, a member of the demimonde, has ordered him to shoplift. He appears as a talented but non-threatening everyman whose principles guide his actions. Though the thefts are not ingenious in their execution, they demonstrate the character's ease at gliding through public spaces, the realistic lack of self-awareness of his fellow travelers, and the extent to which he depends on anonymity. It's a lifestyle that proves unsustainable, yet difficult to change when deep entanglement with mysterious elements complicates his escape.

Some of these elements include a recurrent, ominous image of a tower; memories of his past relationship with a woman named Saeko; and Kizaki, the leader of a gang the thief was briefly involved with, who later manipulates the thief simply because he can. In addition, the deaths of several prominent figures have been made possible by the thief's participation in a home invasion, a crime which Kizaki uses to cover up more sinister acts.

Although the minimal background to these events may puzzle some readers, such ambiguity is arguably necessary in a novel that hinges on a detached and unreliable narrator. Shadowy memories and circumstances embody themes of loss and emotional deadening, which arise from existing on the fringes. The thief, who has long made it a practice to operate alone, must struggle with the insistent reminder that it is impossible to separate past from present and to suppress the need for human connection.

Despite its darkness (at one point, in a moment of reflection, the thief declares, "If you can't stop the light from shining in your eyes, it's best to head back down in the opposite direction"), Nakamura imbues the tale with occasional humor as well as interludes that reveal the main character to be less hardened than he seems. The result is a disturbing examination of self-denial, bravado and its consequences, with an impressively rendered twist: the thief becomes a vulnerable - even winning - figure.

Reviewed by Karen Rigby

This review was originally published in April 2012, and has been updated for the January 2013 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Tokyo's Trains

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Only Child
    Only Child
    by Rhiannon Navin
    Rhiannon Navin's debut novel, Only Child received an overall score of 4.8 out of 5 from BookBrowse ...
  • Book Jacket: Brass
    Brass
    by Xhenet Aliu
    In 1996, Waterbury, Connecticut is a town of abandoned brass mills. Eighteen-year-old Elsie ...
  • Book Jacket: Timekeepers
    Timekeepers
    by Simon Garfield
    If you can spare three minutes and 57 seconds, you can hear the driving, horse-gallop beat of Sade&#...
  • Book Jacket: How to Stop Time
    How to Stop Time
    by Matt Haig
    Tom Hazard, the protagonist of How to Stop Time, is afflicted with a condition of semi-immortality ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

A nuanced portrait of war, and of three women haunted by the past and the secrets they hold.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Only Child
    by Rhiannon Navin

    A dazzling, tenderhearted debut about healing, family, and the exquisite wisdom of children.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The French Girl
    by Lexie Elliott

    An exhilarating debut psychological suspense novel for fans of Fiona Barton and Ruth Ware.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Beartown

Now in Paperback!

From the author of a A Man Called Ove, a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T I M A Slip B C A L

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.