Review - THE THIEF, Fuminori Nakamura
Brief but beautifully evocative, sparse yet hugely informative, THE THIEF is another example of Japanese noir sensibility. Told in first person, Nishimura is a pickpocket who targets the rich by preference. Working his highly skilled way through the crowds of Tokyo, he's an unrepentant thief, and a fragile man. Manipulated into a much bigger crime by the gangster Kizaki, Nishimura's life might be spiralling out of control, yet he is still able to reach out to a young boy. The relationship between the man and the boy is touching and poignant as he gives advice on the best way to steal, whilst trying to find a way out of a bad home life and into some sort of future.
Whilst there is action built into the plot, the main focus of THE THIEF for this reader, was the characters. Drawn with deft strokes that give you a clear view of a vulnerable young boy, his driven and desperate mother, and the crime boss Kizaki - calm, determined, vicious and dangerous.
Into every reader's life a book like THE THIEF really should creep. Precise and compact, the style of storytelling feeds the reader's imagination with sufficient detail of the place, and the atmosphere of Nishimura's Tokyo. That brevity also draws a fascinating portrait of the man himself, the matter-of-factness of observation leaving the reader to interpret the causes and outcomes of each event. Even for such a slim volume, it really should have come with a warning about reading late into the night.
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.