The Good Thief
Twelve year-old Ren does not have much hope of being adopted from St. Anthony’s orphanage at which he was abandoned by persons unknown when just a baby; who would want a boy that is missing his left hand? But when a young man named Benjamin Nab appears at the orphanage claiming to be Ren’s older brother, the boy’s sheltered life is turned upside down.
As Benjamin and Ren wander through the farms and whaling towns of 19th-century New England, the boy is tutored by Benjamin in thievery and the art of the con, all the while trying to solve the mysteries of how he came to lose his hand, who his parents are, and why they abandoned him at the orphanage.
Through his association with Benjamin, Ren is introduced to a rogue’s gallery of petty thieves, scam artists, grave robbers, hired thugs and murderers. It’s a macabre and dangerous world, and Ren is torn between staying in it, and becoming one of these misfits, or leaving, only to be alone in the world again. Making his choice even more difficult is his suspicion that Benjamin may hold the keys not only to his future, but to his past as well.
Tinti’s debut novel is tightly plotted and compelling, and the author’s native New England is richly imagined. Reminiscent of Dickens in its gothic narrative and sinister, yet bewitching characters, one adventure follows another in a breathless chase. At turns dark and grim, at others comedic, The Good Thief is the kind of book that grabs the reader by the throat and won’t let go until the end. It should not be missed.