The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam

The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam, by Chris Ewan

The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam, by Chris Ewan

I started reading The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam last Monday night. I originally grabbed it from the book exchange cabinet at my old job, and then let it sit on my nightstand for a good 3 months before picking it up. (So yes, I guess technically I’ve now ‘stolen’ it, since I have no intentions of returning it to my former place of employment. Fitting?)

I’d guess that I probably read the first third of the book in one sitting that first night. It moves along quickly and isn’t complicated in language or concept. I did check the publication information several times, though, because I was convinced that I either had my hands on an advance-publish edition, or it had been translated into English from another language. The punctuation was pretty bad (or even completely lacking) in places, sometimes necessitating several re-reads of a sentence or a paragraph, just to make sure I was correctly interpreting the meaning. It turns out that the author is British, and the book was published in New York, so I guess that particular editor just wasn’t doing her job.

The storyline centers around Charlie Howard, a British mystery writer who moonlights as a thief, who is approached on the first page of the book to steal a set of monkey figurines on a specific night, on a tight timeframe. Against his better judgement, he agrees, and becomes involved in a murder mystery of his own.

I read the book in a few sittings over the course of the week, and finished it on Saturday afternoon. The story never really dropped off; each chapter built nicely into the next, and it was sometimes hard to put it down just because a chapter had ended. It was definitely a good read to fill some idle time–I’d recommend it for a long plane or car ride, or as something to take along on vacation. The story all came together at the end, and left me wondering where the main character would move on to next. Luckily, a few more books have since been written, turning the story into a series. Perhaps I’ll pick up one of those one day.

My one gripe with the book is that I initially picked it up because it was based in Amsterdam. It’s a place I’ve always wanted to visit, and I wanted to learn more about the city and its culture. However, the story revolved around a British visitor to the city and a murdered American–neither of whom were fit to give me the ‘local’ experience I was hoping for. There were mentions of locations, but it felt as though the author could have been simply looking at a city map as he wrote, rather than having had first-hand experience in the place.

My overall rating: 2.5/5

(As a fun piece of trivia: I initially misspelled ‘thief’ as ‘theif’ in every instance in this post.)

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