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
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:
- Why does Charlie use a fake picture on his books? I picked right up on that quirk. I must know why.
- 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?
- 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.