Sunday, July 10, 2011
The Good Thief- Hannah Tinti
The Good Thief, Hannah Tinti, Dial Press 2009 (paperback)
Delightful. Just delightful. Through and through.
Oh, did you need me to say more?
The Good Thief is the story of young Ren, a one-handed orphan left to be raised by Catholic priests in early industrial New England. The circumstances of his missing hand are a mystery, and when a young man presenting himself as Ren's brother comes along to claim him, offering a fantastic story of their parents' murder and the dramatic loss of the hand, Ren is thrilled to find his long-lost family. Of course things are not at all what they seem, and Ren quickly finds himself part of a band of thieves and con men. They scam and steal their way across the region, until they hear of an even better gig: a doctor is paying good money for corpses for medical research. This gruesome job goes terribly awry, and each in our band of characters find themselves in a good bit of trouble. As they work their way out, Ren finds his true families - of both the genetic and the adoptive kind - and learns the truth about his heritage.
Well let me first just say that I am a little wary of child protagonists, but this novel surprised me and absolutely sucked me in. It started off as charming, and suddenly (from the moment one of the 'corpses' sat up in the wagon) became quite riveting. The characters are quirky in an appealing, rather than irritating, way - sometimes sinister (but deliciously so), largely flawed (but mostly warm and humanly so), some fanciful in a fairy-tale like way. I especially adored Ren, his doting and shouting landlady Mrs. Sands, and the huge, loyal murderer of a thug who becomes Ren's best friend. The plot is exciting at every turn, I enjoyed the slow revealing of the family mystery, and the inventive way it came together in the end. I stumbled across this one in the library, and am so glad I did - a very compelling story, highly recommended, and the author's recent collection of short stories Animal Crackers is now on my to-read list.