Sep 27, 2012

Book Review: The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura

Title: The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura, translated from the Japanese by Satoko Izumo and Stephen Coates
Published March 20, 2012; Soho Crime
Source: library

I was pleasantly surprised by this award winning novel by the young Japanese writer Fuminori Nakamura. He won Japan's largest prize, the 2009 Oe Prize, for this book and I can see why.

Not nearly as noir as I was expecting, the book shows the flaws and the humanity of this young man, a Tokyo pickpocket so skilled that he can unbutton a man's coat, take a wallet from the inside pocket, and rebutton the coat without being noticed or caught. Working in tandem with two others, he can even remove the cash and return the wallet to the unsuspecting victim's pocket in the flash of an eye.

The Thief targets only wealthy, well dressed Tokyo businessmen, as they walk along the street or ride on the subway. This is until he gets involved in more serious pickpocketing for gang members who have a political agenda. The noir ending I was expecting didn't happen, and there is hope for the Thief who risks his life to protect a young boy, a budding pickpocket, and put him on a path different from his own.

This was an easy read, only 211 pages. The dialogue and plot lines are both excellent.

Nakamura's first book, The Gun, has also won an award.

Visit Saturday Review of Books for a weekly collection of book reviews.


  1. This book does sound tempting, and like something I might enjoy. For some reason, I seem to enjoy the seedier aspects of life in a big city. Excellent review!

  2. This sounds intriguing, and more like a novella than a novel.

  3. Definitely going on my TBR. I haven't read any Japanese authors since Murakami, and that's AGES ago! Thanks for heads up!

  4. I have this book on my shelves & aim to read it before the years out. If you enjoyed this you may like Villain by Shuichi Yoshida.

  5. To be able to unbutton, take something, and then button without the person!

    It sounds interesting, and I love that it's only a little over 200 pages!!

  6. This sounds interesting, thank you for the recommendation.

  7. I would be willing to read this one. I like the idea of noir and taking place in Japan.

  8. I've heard only good things about this book, seems like a must-read :) And I'm always looking for exciting new Japanese novels!

  9. I read and reviewed this recently - an interesting little book. I'd love to know more about the Oe prize - I read somewhere that it's selected by a panel of one (?)


I appreciate your comments and thoughts...

Travel Can Be Fun or Not: Sunday Salon

Books read and to-be-read The Trip by Phoebe Morgan, May 25, 2024; HQ, NetGalley Genre: mystery, adventure, travel fiction, adult fiction B...