Monday, June 29, 2009

The Handsell: The Good Thief

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The Good Thief
by Hannah Tinti (Random House, $25.00)
This novel contains an orphan, a con man, a giant zombie, a mad doctor, a dwarf, and a sinister factory. If that laundry list excites you with prospects of strange and uncanny adventure, or reminds you of childhood afternoons curled up with Robert Louis Stevenson, this is the book for you. For me, it's a reminder of when I was very young and my mom used to read "chapter books" to me before bedtime, chapter by excruciatingly suspenseful chapter. Now, my husband and I have been reading The Good Thief aloud to each other. It's the first time as an adult I can recall saying "please, just one more chapter."

It takes a pretty incredible writer to write a 19th century boy's adventure story with a wry 21st century sensibility. Hannah Tinti gets everything right, sketching scenes with the smallest of telling details, letting the character's moral evolution reveal itself in their actions. The orphan Ren is a conflicted hero for all time, and Benjamin Nab is a confidence man whose stories are as satisfying as they are implausible. Highly recommended for smart, suspenseful summer reading for all ages, and especially for sharing with like-minded adventurers.