Review: The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura


Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

Translated by Satoko Izumo and Stephen Coates, 2012. First published in Japan by Kawade Shobo Shinsha, 2009. Corsair, 2012. Kindle Edition. 206 KB. ASIN: B0085E7GTQ. ISBN: 978-1-78033-914-6 (ebook)

The Thief is a relatively short novel that can be read almost in one sitting. The story is told in the first person by a particularly skilful pickpocket who makes a living in the crowded streets of Tokyo. He’s a loner who has neither family nor friends. When the book opens he has just returned to Tokyo, but he’s not quite sure why has he come back.

“I wanted news of Ishikawa, but I wasn’t sure if that was the real reason. Thinking about how the situation had unfolded back then, I knew there was a strong possibility that he was dead and almost certainly it wasn’t safe for me to be here either”.

One day he stumbles upon a small boy who was shoplifting in a supermarket under the watchful eye of his mother. The store’s detective is keeping and eye on him. The thief warns him that he has been spotted and, selflessly, helps him out. Later on, though reluctantly, he befriends the boy and teaches him the basic rules of his trade.

Years ago he used to team up with Ishikawa and got an offer of an easy and well-paid job he couldn’t refuse. He did not hesitate. In those days whenever he was faced with a choice he favoured action over inaction.

The target was an old man who lived in a house all alone with his mistress. His job was just to intimidate the woman, tie her up and keep her quiet. Actually it was a fake robbery. They’ll take all the money away from the safe but really they are only interested in some papers. The plan is designed to the last detail and no one should get hurt.

The next day, much to his surprise he finds out that the old man was killed during the robbery. He was a member of the House of Representatives. His death has triggered a series of events. Some key players in the political and business community of the country have gone missing, committed suicide or died from violent causes. The stock market collapses. Our character leaves Tokyo that night.

The Thief is a worthy read. And though it’s not perfect, it’s very well written. For my taste it is extremely attractive. I particularly liked the interplay between the two different time frames in which the story unfolds and thus the author manages to maintain the intrigue and the suspense. The narrative’s structure is very original and intelligent. Also the ending is quite satisfactory and is open to several interpretations. The story contains some doses of cheap philosophy, but it does not pretend to be a philosophical treaty. This is just a work of fiction and, as such, I won’t hesitate to recommend it.

My rating: 4/5. 

Fuminori Nakamura was born in 1977 and graduated from Fukushima University in 2000. In 2002, he won the prestigious Noma Literary Prize for New Writers for his first novel, A Gun, and in 2005 he won the Akutagawa prize for The Boy in the Earth. The Thief is his first novel to be published in English.

The Thief has been reviewed by Bernadette at Reaction to Reading, Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise, NacyO at the crime segments, The complete review, Killing Time, Glen at International Noir Fiction, The Bookbag, Yvonne Klein at reviewing the evidence, among others.     

Constable & Robinson

Soho Crime

With this book I have completed my participation in the 2012 Global Reading Challenge.


El ladrón de Fuminori Nakamura

El ladrón es una novela relativamente corta que se puede leer prácticamente de una sentada. La historia está narrada en primera persona por un carterista particularmente hábil que se gana la vida en las abarrotadas calles de Tokio. Es un personaje solitario que no tiene familia ni amigos. Cuando el libro empieza acaba de regresar a Tokio, pero no está seguro por qué ha vuelto.

“Necesitaba tener noticias de Ishikawa, pero no estaba seguro si era ésta el verdadero motivo. Pensando en cómo se había desarrollado la situación en aquel entonces, sabía que existía una gran probabilidad de que estuviera muerto y era prácticamente cierto de que tampoco era seguro para mi el estar aquí.” (My free translation)

Un día se encuentra con un niño que estaba robando en un supermercado bajo la mirada atenta de su madre. El detective de la tienda se ha dado cuenta. El ladrón le advierte de que ha sido visto y, desinteresadamente, le echa una mano. Más tarde, aunque de mala gana, se hace amigo del niño y le enseña las reglas básicas de su oficio.

Hace años solía asociarse con Ishikawa y recibió una oferta de un trabajo fácil y bien remunerado que no pudo rechazar. Él no lo dudó. En aquellos días, cada vez que se enfrentaba a una elección era partidario de la acción frente a la inactividad.

El objetivo era un anciano que vivía en una casa a solas con su amante. Su trabajo consistía sólo en intimidar a la mujer, atarla y mantenerla callada. En realidad era un robo falso. Se van a llevar todo el dinero de la caja fuerte, pero en realidad sólo están interesados ​​en algunos papeles. El plan está diseñado hasta el último detalle y nadie debe salir lastimado.

Al día siguiente, para su sorpresa, descubre que el anciano fue asesinado durante el robo. Era miembro de la Cámara de Representantes. Su muerte ha desencadenado una serie de acontecimientos. Algunos de los personajes clave de la comunidad política y empresarial del país han desaparecido, se han suicidado o han fallecido por causas violentas. El mercado de valores se ​​derrumba. Nuestro personaje abandona Tokio esa noche.

El ladrón es una lectura digna. Y aunque no es perfecto, está muy bien escrito. Para mi gusto, es muy atractivo. Me gustó especialmente la interacción entre los dos marcos de tiempo en los que se desarrolla la historia y así el autor consigue mantener la intriga y el suspense. La estructura narrativa es muy original e inteligente. También el final es bastante satisfactorio y está abierto a diferentes interpretaciones. La historia contiene algunas dosis de filosofía barata, pero no pretende ser un tratado filosófico. Es sólo una obra de ficción y, como tal, no dudo en recomendarla.

Mi valoración: 4/5.

Fuminori Nakamura nació en 1977 y se graduó por la Universidad de Fukushima en el  2000. El 2002, ganó el prestigioso Premio de Literatura Noma para Nuevos Escritores por su primera novela, A Gun, y el 2005 ganó el premio Akutagawa por The Boy in the Earth. El ladrón es su primera novela traducida al inglés.

8 thoughts on “Review: The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura

  1. José Ignacio – Thanks for the excellent review. I too enjoy threads of past and present woven together in the same novel when it’s smoothly done. And in this case it seems so clear that past and present affect each other. The characters seem interesting too. I’ve been wanting to read this and you’ve reminded me of why I should.

  2. Great review – thanks. I’ve just finished putting down my own thoughts about the novel, and definitely found it refreshingly different to most things I’ve read.

    I remain unconvinced that the crime plot stands alone, but as a whole, the book was an interesting package.

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