Friday, October 15, 2010

Chris Ewan - The Good Thief's Guide to Vegas
So, I'm chewing my way, slowly, through Philip Dray's There Is Power in a Union, which is very long. Perhaps taking a break in the middle of the week to read Mr. Ewan's most recent work didn't do anything to shorten Dray's Epic Story of American Labor, but it did give me something to post about this Friday, so I hope you won't think poorly me of me as a result.

This is Ewan's third "Good Thief" novel, the first was "Amsterdam" and the second was "Paris." Charlie is a mystery novelist who also, sometimes, breaks into people's houses. This, sometimes, gets him into trouble. Therein hangs the story that Ewan is telling. This time, after being chased out of France, Charlie and Victoria, his editor (who appeared, in person, at the end of "Paris") find themselves in Vegas, where they learn something about the people who run the city - largely, that they are neither nice, nor particularly patient, and they do not like it when people steal from them. Charlie and Victoria get involved with a stage magician, they steal some stuff, and they fail to steal some other stuff, and, look, it's a mystery novel. If I tell you too much, the whole story stops working, right?

The characters are well written, they have real problems (Charlie is suffering from both writer's block and arthritis, for instance), and they use their wits and talents to get into and out of trouble. Ewan writes with a dry British type wit, in Charlie's voice. If you like dry British type wit (as I do), you'll probably like this. Plus, it's a caper novel, so if you like novels where slightly crooked types put one over on slightly more crooked types (as I do), you'll probably like this too. There was one scene and one plot element that I didn't like all that much, the scene seemed to be a point where Ewan felt that he had made things too easy for his characters, and so walked things back a little - it felt natural, but it also felt a little like padding - an opportunity to show Charlie's skill at safe cracking (which skill is a significant plot point, but which had already been adequately demonstrated at that point, I think), combined with the aforementioned making things hard for the characters -  the whole sequence could have been left out, and the plot would not have been affected. The plot element I didn't like involves a sudden reveal of a character secret, and it felt a little like cheating - Ewan hadn't offered any clues to the secret at all, which is fair, I suppose, but it made the whole reveal seem sudden. I think the element makes the character more interesting, potentially - we'll see what Ewan does with the character in later books.

At the end of the book, as at the end of most caper novels, the mostly good guys have gotten away with their plot, mostly, and Ewan has left himself open for at least another book.

A final thought - "Paris" ended with a brief tutorial on how to pick locks - this book does not end with a brief tutorial on how to, for instance, crack safes - a little disappointing.

An actual final thought - this sounds like I didn't like the book very much, and that would be wrong - I enjoyed it quite a lot. It's just that the elements I liked, I can't talk about without giving away the twists of the plot. You know how it is.