Publication Date: May 2013
Format: Paperback, 224 pgs
Source: Personal Library
Translated from the Japanese by Satoko Izumo and Stephen Coates
I have to say when I first saw this book, I was attracted to its bright cover and the cover quote by Natsuo Kirino (author of Out) as this book being "fascinating". Fascinated by the theme and Natsuo Kirino's quote of course, I picked up this book with high expectations, since the back cover stated that this book is taut, atmospheric and cool and will steal my breath away.
Told from a first person perspective, The Thief is a sad story about a seasoned pickpocket named Nishimura. A loner with no family, friends or any other connections, he weaves through the crowded streets of Tokyo in search of potential targets. His targets are usually the rich; and his stealing skills are so good that stealing becomes a natural to him. At times, he does it with needs; and there are other times he does it subconsciously. No matter the circumstances, he always never get caught. Just when he wonders about his pathetic life, he encounters a young boy by chance. Like him, the young boy steals stuff but that is because he is being instructed by his mother. Raised in a single-parent family, the young boy lacks the care and love by his mother and is often abused by his mother's 'boyfriends'.
Nishimura couldn't help but feel sorry for the young boy, and since then they became friends and even teach him a few tips on stealing. It is also about this time that Nishimura's past catches up with him when his old partner-in-crime, Ishikawa reappears and offers him a job he can't refuse. The mastermind behind the job is a gang leader named Kizaki, and what he wants Ishikawa and Nishimura to do is to break into a wealthy old man's house and raid his safe. Thereafter, they would get some shares of what they have stolen and their task would be accomplished.
However, that is not what Kizaki has in mind from the start. After Ishikawa and Nishimura have done their job, they are shocked to find that the old man they had robbed is no ordinary man and most of all, he is eventually killed by Kizaki's men.
Nishimura soon finds himself caught in a web when Kizaki offers him another three tasks and that he couldn't say no. What's worse, should he fail the tasks, Nishimura would be a dead man.
As a noir thriller, I would say that The Thief has great characterisations and readers could feel the cynicism and the moral ambiguity about today's society. As much as I find the plot tense and engaging, what disappointed me is the ambiguous ending which I feel is somewhat anti-climactic. Still, it is a thought-provoking read and it had allowed me to get a glimpse of how a pickpocket's life is.