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#347 ~ The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam

The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam by Chris Ewan

Published by: St. Martin’s Press

Published on: April 2009

Page Count: 240

Genre: Crime Fiction/Mystery

My Reading Format: Audiobook sent to me for review from publisher

Audiobook Published by: AudioGo

Narrator: Simon Vance

Audiobook Length: 7 hours 16 minutes

Available Formats: Hardcover, paperback, eBook, Audiobook


My Review

The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam is the first novel in a series featuring Charlie Howard, a British author of crime fiction and a professional thief. He is living in Amsterdam finishing up his latest novel. As he readies his latest manuscript to send to Victoria, his London-based editor, Charlie receives an email requesting his thieving services. While his career as an author is publicly known, his thieving services aren’t. Typically all requests come to him after a trusted associate contacts him about the job first. This email arrives unexpectedly. Although suspicious, Charlie agrees to meet with this person. At the meeting, Michael, the potential client, asks Charlie to steal two seemingly worthless monkeys to complete a set of three Wise Monkeys. Michael knows where they are, the needed security information and will personally be responsible for keeping the victims away from home while the job is done. An easy job with a substantial payout makes Charlie even more suspicious. Charlie doesn’t accept the job before leaving the meeting with Michael. He knows better than to get involved in a plot that must be done immediately and without adequate planning on his part, but he simply couldn’t stay away. He may have been able to successfully lifting those monkeys, but Charlie discovers that disentangling himself from the sequence of events which were to follow wasn’t pretty.

From the first time I heard about AudioGo’s production of Chris Ewan’s Good Thief’s Guide books I knew I was going to read them. True, I am a sucker for anything narrated by Simon Vance, but it wasn’t just narrator appeal. The first of these books is set in Amsterdam. Being as proud of my Dutch heritage as I can be, an interesting novel set in the Netherlands peaks my interest. Had the series began anywhere else, it wouldn’t have resonated with me the same way. Since I obviously wasn’t paying a lick of attention in 2009, the cosmos, knowing my weaknesses, used Simon Vance as a carrot. The cosmos is brilliant that way.

While I enjoyed the mystery surrounding the three wise monkeys, the characters are what I loved about this novel. Charlie was a terrific blend of criminal expertise and adorable naughtiness. In short, he was a doll and I enjoyed every second I spent with him.  He is strong lead character and his relationships with supporting characters highlight his personality and motivations. In particular, they way he interacted with his agent Victoria  and Rutherford, a lawyer, kept me smiling throughout the  book. They also raised questions about Charlie and his life that I hope are answered throughout the series. Chief among them are:

  1. Why does Charlie use a fake picture on his books? I picked right up on that quirk. I must know why.
  2. What kind of a relationship will Charlie and Vic have down the road? Will it remain a companionable professional relationship or will there be a little something more?
  3. Is there a lock that Charlie can’t pick?

I was not anticipating The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam to be nearly as funny as it was. Ewan’s writes with an understated humor that reminds me a great deal of Mark Haddon and, more recently, Kevin Wilson. Simon Vance shines narrating work like Ewan’s. His range of accents and female voices works so well in a Western European settings. Charlie might be a thief, but Chris Ewan and Simon Vance are a new dynamic duo in the world of crime fiction. As if you needed more proof that my word (Ha!), here is a YouTube video taken at a recent event attended by both Chris Ewan and Simon Vance at M is for Mystery Bookstore in San Mateo, CA.

So, how was Amsterdam? A Dutch treat. From warning Charlie away from beautiful Dutch blondes to wondering what was up with those *!#!#* monkeys, I was engaged and ever curious. In other words, I was a happy reader through and through.

12 Comments

  • At 2011.08.08 08:00, Leeswammes (Judith) said:

    Great review, but I didn’t like the book half as much as you did.

    I wonder if the fact that you heard the audio of this book made a difference. Or that you’re part-Dutch but not living in the Netherlands (I am Dutch AND living in the Netherlands and have no particular interest in Amsterdam).

    My review is here: http://leeswammes.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/book-review-the-good-thiefs-guide-to-amsterdam-by-chris-ewan/

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    • At 2011.08.08 08:35, Jennifer said:

      Oh, no! I’m sorry you didn’t like this book as much as I did. All of those things could be factors for sure. Do you read a lot of Crime Fiction? I don’t know if the expectations of those who do are different from someone wandering in like I did.

      I do think audio may have been a factor as well. Simon Vance is fantastic at what he does and his performance here was perfect for the humor in Chris Ewan’s writing.

      I’m going to be traveling to Venice with Charlie next. I’ll let you know. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by! So happy to have a full blooded Dutch woman leave a comment, whether she’s interested in Amsterdam or not. 😉

      • At 2011.08.08 08:31, Beth Hoffman said:

        Between your review and the video, I’m totally hooked! Will get this book immediately. Thanks.

        • At 2011.08.08 09:16, bermudaonion (Kathy) said:

          That event would be a book lover’s dream. I’m curious – is Vance reading from an iPad in a book store? This sounds like a great series.

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          • At 2011.08.08 09:54, Leeswammes (Judith) said:

            Jennifer, Crime Fiction isn’t the main genre I read but I do read it every now and then, maybe 10-20% of my reads are mystery or thrillers.

            What’s full-blooded? I have enough French, Belgian, German and, apparently, even Norwegian ancestors. 🙂

            Have fun with the next instalment of the series!

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            • At 2011.08.08 11:07, Jennifer said:

              Beth, I hope you love it as much as I do!

              Kathy, I believe that was an iPod. 🙂

              Judith, I have a good amount of German and Norwegian blood myself. Okay, you might not be full blooded, but you are there. How about that? LOL!!!

              • At 2011.08.08 14:39, Chris said:

                Hi Jennifer

                Thanks so much for this review. I’m really glad you enjoyed Amsterdam and hope you’ll have as much fun with Charlie in Paris, Vegas and Venice. Rest assured, your questions will all be answered in the books! I’m especially glad you enjoyed the audio version – I really do think Simon has done an outstanding job.

                Kathy, yes Simon is reading from an iPad. I understand he often uses an iPad where he can when he’s recording in the studio.

                And Judith, I’m sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy Amsterdam so much, but thanks for taking the time to read it.

                • At 2011.08.08 15:17, Sandy said:

                  (Damn I love his accent.) As they say, “If it ain’t Dutch, it ain’t much”. True in this case I guess. I really need to make some more friends at AudioGo. Why am I being excluded from this fun??? From Mr. Vance? I guess I’m just going to have to scrounge at the library and hope they have this in stock. If you like the whole thief/proper citizen thing, you should try Lawrence Block’s “Burglar” series. In that case, cat burglar by night, antiquarian bookstore owner by day. Very clever and endearing.

                  • At 2011.08.08 19:10, Emily said:

                    Oooh, sounds intriguing. Will have to check this one out!

                    • At 2011.09.08 00:02, #367 ~ Plugged : literatehousewife.com said:

                      […] at it, be sure to check out AudioGo’s other fantastic titles. I can personally vouch for The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam and Trespass as well. Such good […]

                      • At 2011.11.04 09:32, #379 ~ The Good Thief’s Guide to Paris said:

                        […] well worth the wait. The two clicked just as well in the same city as they did over the phone in The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam. There is also one scene in particular that brought tears to my eyes I was laughing so hard. When […]

                        • At 2013.03.11 22:11, #507 ~ The Good Thief’s Guide to Vegas said:

                          […] Reviews: The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam and The Good Thief’s Guide to […]

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