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Sunday, January 30, 2011
The Good Thief, by Hannah Tinti
Several reviewers refer to this tale as "Dickensian" and I have to agree. It stars a young boy, Ren, an orphan who is adopted by a con man, Benjamin, because Ren is missing one hand. Benjamin makes up any number of stories about the missing hand, and uses the sympathy of others to take their money. He soon learns that Ren has a way with stealing in any case, and is glad he doesn't have to teach him that particular skill.
So we start to think of Oliver Twist and others. This story, though, is set in New England. Not that it matters much, as that part of the country is older and steeped in buried history, much like its namesake.
The tale - and I feel "tale" is the right word - takes on gigantic dimensions in the adventure department, yet while I laughed at the absurdity of some of the characters I was willing to buy them. I also found the dialogue believable, authentic, unlike the mannered dialogue I have encountered in other "period" novels. Normally I walk away from fantastic fairy tales and period stories but this one grabbed me, from the grave-digging to the giant to the yelling landlady.