Charlie Howard travels the globe writing suspense novels for a living. To supplement his income - and keep his hand in - Charlie has a small side business: stealing for a very discreet clientele on commission. When a mysterious American offers Charlie 20,000 euros to steal two small monkey figurines to match the one he already has, Charlie is suspicious; the job seems too good to be true, and of course, it is. He soon finds the American beaten nearly to death, while the third figurine has disappeared. Back in London, his literary agent, Victoria (who is naive enough to believe he actually looks like his jacket photo), tries to talk him through the plot problems in both his latest manuscript and in his real life - but Charlie soon finds himself caught up in a caper reminiscent of a Cary Grant movie, involving safe-deposit boxes, menacing characters, and a beautiful damsel in distress.
©2007 Chris Ewan (P)2011 AudioGo
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This is another "try something different" for me. The publisher's summary and the always superb narrator Simon Vance make it sound intriguing.
This story has none of the intense psychological aura nor the graphic ongoing violence that many of the mystery thrillers have. Yes, I do listen to them, but it takes a few days to come back to my reality to move on. When this was over, I was delighted with the outcome which has a Sherlock Holmes feel to it. The characters are varied and each has an ulterior motive or two for their behavior. Our "Good Thief" must sort it all out, earn his freedom, and move on to Paris.
I plan to move on to the next installment in the series.
There are few things in life better than losing yourself completely in a really exceptional story. I enjoy reading others' reviews.
After reading (and loving) his most recent novel, Safe House, I worked backwards and bought this book, the first of his "The Good Thief's Guide to...." and that's when I discovered that I also love Charlie Howard, Ewan's dashing, but hardly angelic, main character.
Charlie's a writer of crime mysteries, and it's no wonder because Charlie himself enjoys a little larceny in between writing projects. Although his moral compass is a tad off-kilter, he's basically a very likable fellow with a sharp wit and a non-violent streak. It's not about the haul really, but about the thrill and excitement. OK, so it's about the loot too, but that thrill and excitement stuff is important.
Charlie's currently in Amsterdam penning his latest book, but he's having trouble with it. So, while seeking inspiration, he takes a break to indulge in his favorite pasttime, but things go terribly awry, and as usual, Charlie gets involved in a spiderweb of tangled intrigue.
As I write this review, I'm finishing the final book in the Good Thief series, and I'm delighted to say that each book has been pure fun! I'm so thankful that I discovered Chris Ewan. It's been a wonderful journey.
You can never go wrong with Simon Vance as a narrator and his reading adds a dash to an enjoyable but not memorable story. Charlie Howard is a bit of a throw back to the 60s, as are most of the other characters. A bit of Robert Wagner in It Takes a Thief. The story could easily be set 40 years ago instead of now except transactions are done in Euros. I don't know that I will follow Charlie on his larceny tour of world cities, I didn't feel much like I was in Amsterdam and I prefer tales that bring the setting alive and pull it into the story.
A librarian who loves to read, whether in print or in the air
Simon Vance's narration was great...but the story didn't offer up enough of Amsterdam, and the mystery itself was a little predictable.
Grey Cats Mom
I listen to books during my commute to work and when I'm working around the house. I pick books that are entertaining, not ones that require a lot of concentration, and brain power. This book entertained me, and I looked forward to listening to it.
Excellent depiction of the varied accents required in this book.
Yes, we recently were on vacation in Amsterdam.
People say I resemble my dog (and vice-versa). He can hear sounds I can't hear, but I'm the one who listens to audiobooks.
Let me make sure this is clear before I get into details: This book was entertaining and I'm happy to have listened to it. And I would try another book from Chris Ewan in the Good Thief's Guide series. But let me make this clear too: I would try one more, and if it's as full of holes as this one, that would be the last.
Ewan is a mystery writer writing about a mystery writer who is also a master thief. His protagonist, Charlie Howard, grapples with the details of the mystery book he is writing even as he acts out his part as master thief in Ewan's mystery book. Given this metafictional structure, I this it's totally fair game to have problems with the holes in Ewan's plot that mirror those in Howard's book.
Howard's prize possession is a framed first edition of The Maltese Falcon, which is mentioned on page 44, pretty early on. By then, we know that he has been hired to steal a pair of monkey figurines that everyone keeps telling him are worthless. If I as reader can instantly connect The Maltese Falcon to the worthless monkey figurines, why does it take Howard, a brilliant writer and thief who prizes The Maltese Falcon, so long? Not good.
There are other foreshadows of a similar nature that are instantly evident, but I will not go into detail so as not to spoil anything -- I don't think the figurine issue is a spoiler because it is just so obvious.
Without spoilers, I will again refer to Ewan's novel-within-the-novel. Howard's editor points out a huge hole in his plot that he tries to figure out even while he tries to figure out what is actually happening to him in the plot he is living in. After he fingers who done it and how and why, his editor points out the hole in his real life plot. He spends the last pages of the book explaining it away, to no one's satisfaction (by which I mean his, his editor's, or mine).
In Ewan's metafiction, the hole in his plot is left as unresolved as the hole in his character's plot. His editor even tells him, by way of consolation, that readers won't remember how the briefcase got into the policeman's hands by the time the ending rolls around. Not willing to take that chance, Ewan confronts his big hole and merely wishes it away, unsuccessfully.
In addition, the big ending in which Howard explains what happened and fingers the perp employs the classic technique of bringing everyone into the same room as he tells them all what he figured out. Obviously done on purpose, but equally obvious is that the scene is totally contrived, totally gratuitous, and beyond credulity.
Simon Vance is a staple of audiobooks. I've had the misfortune of only listening to him read books that were inadequately plotted. Still, he has done a masterful job in every case. He has that irresistible English accent and uses it in a classic understated manner.
Since it is a series, and English, and a mystery, it could definitely be a PBS Mystery or Masterpiece Theater, although reports in the press have ABC developing it . With a British cast, Bill Nighy has the right attitude for Charlie Howard, but he may be a bit too old to play the cat burglar. Maybe one of the Fiennes boys, Ralph or Joseph. Timothy Spall would be a good Rutherford/Stuart, although I'm not sure if he's a recurring character. Victoria? I'm gonna say Kristin Scott Thomas, but if you need someone younger, Kate Beckinsale.
Confession: I love detective fiction, murder mysteries, suspense plots of all kinds, but what I mostly appreciate about them are the characters, the location, occasionally an interesting plot or subplot that deals with something that interests me. In spite of it all, I don't particularly care who "done" it. Occasionally, I will skip the last 20-30 pages of a book entirely -- I'd like to know who actually DID it, but when the explanation of how they did it, or why, gets too long and tiresome, I tune out. I really don't care.
This is one such book. I thoroughly enjoyed the first 5.5 hours of this book -- I like the main anti-hero character -- okay, he's no George Ripley, but still, as a witty, sophisticated and delightfully droll thief, he was just fine. I liked the Amsterdam location. I thought I was enjoying the plot.
But then the denouement started, waaaaaaay too early -- and it went on, and on and on and on. Explanation after explanation.... good grief. For a book that's slightly over 7 hours long, if it takes 1.5 hours to explain how it all happened, that's too much. Too complex. I no longer cared -- I wanted to move along to something else.
I quit listening with 48 minutes left.... way too much explanation for me. Good book, though, up to that point.
First, as always, is the story. In this case, the author wrote one of the most creative mysteries I've ever read, with an engaging "detective" character unlike no other. In addition to the very creative premise are great characters and a wonderful sense of humor. And then, there is the narrator. Simon Vance was amazing: funny, erudite, and utterly charming. Every character was unique and believable, almost as if the book were voiced by a complete cast. Vance has won many awards for his voice work, and if this is any indication, they were very well deserved.
Completely unique and completely charming. Plus, the international setting gave it great interest.
I'm now planning to read everything by this author and well as look into other recordings by exceptional Simon Vance.
No, not another book in this series by this author.
This thief was ridiculously cool under pressure. Totally unruffled when arrested by police for murder & grilled. Totally unruffled when hit w/baseball bat & kidnapped & wakes up tied to chair. Not only not afraid but emotional vacuum. The denouement was unbelievable to me because POLICE allowed themselves to be summoned by a (former) murder suspect and KIDNAPPERS came to such a meeting with police present (and their illicit deeds were discussed). I also doubt some others there would attend. And everybody sits around in a circle while the Thief of Amsterdam holds forth on his theory of the murder?! I don't think even the prestigious Sherlock Holmes could have managed to round up this diverse crew for such a denouement.
Smooth. Polished. Calm.
Can't say I think it was.
The story was humdrum from start to finish. Simon Vance is almost a delight, but although he is rumored to be able to make a phone book engaging, he couldn't save this book.
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