THE THIEF is the first English language publication of Funimori Nakamura’s prize winning novel. In only ten years, the young author has garnered some impressive awards in his native 12296546Japan. THE THIEF won the 2010 OE Prize, Japan’s largest literary prize.

It’s the story of a pickpocket told in first person and our hero remains anonymous throughout the book. He’s quite accomplished at what he does, having worked up from shoplifting in his youth. A loner, he has no family or friends, sails through life making his picks, rarely even remembering those he robs.

Then his first partner pops back into his life, Ishikawa, a man he hasn’t seen in years, with a proposition. An easy job he’s promised. Simply break into an old man’s home and rob his safe. There are papers in there Ishikawa’s people want-and eighty million yen in cash, no tax paid on it.

There will be no violence, simply tie the old man and his mistress up, threaten her with samurai swords(they will be posing as a band of Chinese thieves. Each member of the team will get five million yen.

The job goes off smoothly, though our hero is nervous, and one man stays behind briefly to clean up a few things as they exit the house.

The thief finds out what the next morning. The old man was a politician and he’d been murdered. And suddenly our thief was on the hook for more nonsensical jobs. Ishikawa has disappeared, told he’s been killed, and the leader has threatened a mother and her son the thief had gotten close to, she a prostitute and the boy a budding criminal himself, good though awkward. The thief sees something of himself in the boy.

THE THIEF was a revelation for me. I’d always had trouble with books translated from other languages. Whether that’s the fault of the translators or the author I never knew. This one was translated by Satoko Izumo and Stephen Coates and it was a fine, quick read.

A nice look at a crime novel with an interesting hero. Recommended and available on January 15th HERE.