“The Good Thief” by Hannah Tinti

The December selection for the Twin Cities’ Books and Bars reading group is Hannah Tinti’s impressive debut novel, The Good Thief. It had been on my radar since Jennifer Reese, former senior books editor at Entertainment Weekly, reviewed it in 2008

It’s a thumping good read, one I finished in fewer than 24 hours. Tinti gives a New England twist to Dickensian themes of orphans, thieves and poverty. Young Ren was abandoned as a baby at an abbey, with two clues to his identity: a nightshirt with the letters “REN” sewn into the collar, and a missing hand. Years later, a handsome, silver-tongued stranger appears, claiming to be Ren’s brother. Adoption is the highest hope of the orphan boys, whose only other fate is to be conscripted into the army when they come of age. Whether Ren’s being claimed is what he’d hoped for, soon turns out to be much more complicated.

After [that] Ren couldn’t think anymore. Instead he felt the air on his damp skin, the smell of fish in his clothes. The lamppost disappeared behind them, and the boy realized that he was sharing a seat with a murderer. There would be no more bargaining with God. He was into hell now for sure. (177)

Villains, grave robbers, illicit surgery, and overall skulduggery abound as Ren encounters an embittered former teacher, a dead man, a kind but deaf housewife, and a sarcastic dwarf. It is a skillful and entertaining adventure novel with suspense and mystery to spare. Good stuff.

Comments are closed.