Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam by Chris Ewan

The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam is the first book in a mystery series that comes with a built-in series title style -- ...Paris is already in stores, with presumably ...Berlin and ...Budapest and ...Moscow and many more to follow if the readership is there -- all about a mystery novelist who not only writes about a master thief, but himself is a master thief. It won a contest in the UK -- the prize of which was, I believe, its UK publication by the company running the contest -- and it's a pleasant but minor novel.

Charlie Howard is that mystery novelist, and his series character is named Faulks -- luckily, Faulks doesn't become a character in this book, and we steer clear of the shoals of metafiction. Howard is British, but lives peripatetically on the Continent, tied via telephone to his agent Victoria back in the UK, who knows his secret. (She'd have to, since she must know just how much he's making from his books, and whether that could support his lifestyle.)

Amsterdam sees Howard hired on very short notice by someone who is generally referred to as "the American, Michael Parks" to steal two small objects from two other men while Parks is having dinner with them. As usual with caper novels, things don't go as planned -- things that are supposed to be stolen cannot be found, other things are stolen instead, and several bodies hit the floor with hollow thuds. There's then a whole lot of running around, many characters with interesting Dutch names like Burggrave, Riemer, and Van Kleef, and finally the scene where Howard calls everyone together and tells them that they're probably wondering why he called them together.

The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam isn't as funny as I thought it would be; it's an essentially straight mystery story with a witty protagonist. (Perhaps I was led astray by comparisons to Lawrence Block's "Burglar" books, which have a similar premise and are very funny.) It's a perfectly acceptable time-waster; I didn't love it, but I did enjoy it, even though I spent most of my reading time wishing it was something else.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The third book's better :)

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