Fiction: “The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam” by Chris Ewan

Good Thief's Guide AmsterdamOh, good – I did not take notes on this book before returning it to the library! All I did was take a single picture of a quote I wanted to talk about, but that won’t make sense without context, Alaina! This is … this is going to be great. Awesome.

So hey, this was a book I read! I actually grabbed The Good Thief’s Guide to Paris first, and then when I got home from the library and checked the Goodreads I learned that Paris was actually the second title in the series, so I had to return Paris so I could check out Amsterdam because I cannot do something out of order.

Seriously, I’m going to have to crib from a handful of Goodreads reviews and maybe the Wikipedia page, because I remember the premise, but neither the plot nor characters’ names. Excellent reviewing, Alaina! Thank goodness this isn’t your real job!

The narrator of our tale is Charlie Howard. He is a writer of suspense novels, starring a cat burglar. Oh, Charlie is also a “reformed” cat burglar, and by “reformed” I mean “can’t really come back to England because he’s wanted by Scotland Yard maybe.” He is in Amsterdam, attempting to finish up his next novel, and he has phone conversations with his editor, Victoria, who is back in London and apparently believes that Charlie looks like his author dust jacket photo. I remember this, because that phrase is not only in the summary on the back of the book, but also in dialogue.

One night, Charlie gets an email through his publishing website that is cryptic, but asking for Charlie to pull a job. Because yes, Charlie is still actively burgling when he gets a job inspiring enough. He’s like Poirot, but instead of solving crimes, he only commits the crimes that intrigue him. He meets some dude in a café, and the dude asks Charlie to steal two monkey figurines for a tidy sum of 20,000 Euros. Charlie declines, because his gut tells him something’s fishy about this whole deal.

However, Charlie changes his mind and accepts the job. Why does he change his mind? Because if he didn’t, there’d be no plot. Charlie finds the monkeys and is about to deliver them to the person who hired him when two dudes run up the person who hired him and then Charlie finds the person who hired him beaten nearly to death in his apartment.

(There’s more there, and I know I’m doing a bad job explaining this, but it’s been a while and I’m mad that I didn’t take good notes, knowing I’d be writing the review months later. Ugh.)

So then Charlie gets framed for the attempted murder. And there are additional people searching for the monkeys. It’s like The Maltese Falcon, a bit, but kind of comic about it.

The one quote I thought about enough that I took a picture of the page (I was at the gym, I think) is the following brief excerpt of a conversation between Charlie and his lawyer:

“Is there more?”

I just looked at him.

“Very well, you don’t have to tell me. You don’t look or sound like a killer – any fool can see that. But not answering their questions, that could create problems.”

“Can’t I take the fifth, or something like it?”

“Of course you can. But you have to ask yourself how that will help your cause. Your aim is to convince them you didn’t slay the American, surely.” [p. 76]

Uh … Charlie isn’t American. And the crime occurred in Amsterdam. So … the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution wouldn’t be something that Charlie could use.

(Looking through the Goodreads reviews of this book, I’m struck by a) the number of reviews that complained about the lack of copy-editing, and also b) the fact that this Fifth Amendment reference is the only one I really caught? I’m usually really good at that type of shit, I must have been off my game. But I’m assuming that this reference is also a product of lesser editing, because, dudes – the Fifth Amendment is not a universal thing.)

Okay. Y’know, for not remembering a lot of this, I think I did okay. Overall, I enjoyed the book; it was a quick read, Charlie is a bit of fun and entertaining enough to move the story along, and didn’t catch any serious problems with the writing. The ending feels like the ending of a Poirot novel, so, if you don’t like monologuing or scenarios where the detective details the entire plot to a sitting company of rogues, you may be disappointed in the book.

But at some point I’ll re-check-out The Good Thief’s Guide to Paris, and I’ll make sure to take better notes at that time.

Grade for The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam: 2.5 stars

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