The Soul of a Thief

Written by Steven Hartov
Review by India Edghill

“In the spring of 1944, I realized I was not going to survive the war.” With this simple sentence, The Soul of a Thief yanks the reader into its bizarre world, a world in which the word “Jew” is a death sentence—yet the narrator is half-Jewish and works for a high-ranking SS officer. In 1944, men of vision thought they saw how the war would play out its endgame, and made arrangements to survive and thrive. Shtefan Brandt, adjutant to Colonel Erich Himmel, has wound up as the colonel’s combination of lucky mascot and whipping boy, and knows the details of the colonel’s plan to steal enough to set up comfortably after the war. Shtefan has plans too, involving the colonel’s unwilling French mistress and the soon-to-be stolen treasure. But only one of the two men can make it through the war alive and rich—so which will it be?

While the novel is oddly varied in tone, the book is nonetheless compelling. For me, it falls into the same “war is insanity” category as M*A*S*H and Catch-22. Nothing is what it seems, especially perceived reality. I hate to use that overworked-but-gamely-soldiering-on phrase “a real page-turner,” but I found The Soul of a Thief difficult to put down (because a reviewer has to sleep sometime!).