Ren, missing a hand, has lived for eleven years at an orphanage in New England – a place where children are whipped for infractions and schooled in Catholic doctrine. His friendships are few and his questions are many. Then one day a man named Benjamin Nab arrives at Saint Anthony’s claiming to be Ren’s brother. His wild stories convince the authorities at the orphanage to let Benjamin adopt Ren – and thus begins Ren’s second life filled with grave robbery, violence, and lies. Along the way, Ren makes friends with a paid assassin, a dwarf, a landlady who has a heart of gold, a nun, and a drunkard. He also begins to uncover the mystery surrounding his birth.
The Good Thief is a fast read and filled with unexpected events and excitement. Hannah Tinti’s story is a bit Dickensonian, but with more violence. Ren’s character is likable (he is the good thief, in case you were wondering)…he wants to do good, but is forced to lie and steal to survive. The writing in the novel is clean and vivid.
But, despite these strengths, I did not really enjoy this book. At times I felt the plot was too contrived, and the violence overdone and gratuitous. The number of evil characters in the novel turned me off a bit. I found myself wanting a better life for Ren and wondering if there were any loving adults in his world. Luckily, Mrs. Sand (the landlady) ends up being someone who provides the love Ren has never known. And although Tinti redeems some of her “bad” characters, the novel overall was just too dark and depressing.
Many readers liked The Good Thief – in fact, it has won a host of awards including:
When I read through that list, I wonder if I was just not in the mood for this book at the time I read it. Reader’s who like fast-paced fiction and are not overly disturbed by graphic violence, might give this one a try.