Daniel Jolley, an Amazon.com Top 50 Reviewer, calls The Thief Maker, “An ambitious, intricately structured novel that resonates with emotion and suspense.”
An ambitious, intricately structured novel that resonates with emotion and suspense, April 18, 2007
|Reviewer:||Daniel Jolley “darkgenius” (Shelby, North Carolina USA) –|
D.H. Schleicher has given us quite an intricate story of mystery and intrigue with The Thief Maker. This is not a whodunit, and it does not follow the kind of straightforward narration of your typical mystery. Actions and events are not the true focus of this novel; they merely reflect and determine the natures of the personal relationships established among all of the important characters. The author has really taken a psychological approach to telling this story, showing us different pieces of the puzzle from many different angles. Adopting a multiple viewpoints approach, Schleicher provides the reader with glimpses of the world through various eyes caught up in a series of events that seem fated to end badly.
The novel is ostensibly about William Donovan, a con man stooping so low as to rob Alzheimer’s patients inside a nursing home. With the help of his girlfriend Alice, who works at the nursing home, and the purchased silence of security guard Lucas Tolliver, it is almost as easy as stealing candy from a baby. That story is only a small part of the novel, however, and I wouldn’t even call William the main character, although the demons he has fought ever since the utter breakup of his family when he was a child prove a driving force in everything that transpires. For me, though, the heart and soul of The Thief Maker is a child named Rex Gail. In one sense, Rex represents all of the main characters, individuals trying to make sense of lives that have become far too complicated and have included more than their share of trauma. Rex was born with AIDS to a mother who gave him up after birth. He spent his earliest years with psychologist foster parents communicating through sign language instead of his own voice. Then his mother Marie cleans up her act, gets custody of Rex, and takes him to live with Felice, her new lesbian partner. When Marie dies of AIDS, she leaves Rex with Felice for all the wrong reasons. William eventually enters the boy’s life and becomes something of a foster father to him (albeit a pretty unreliable one), ultimately introducing even more chaos in to the young lad’s unfortunate life.
If you were to draw a diagram of the links between all of the major characters in this book, you might end up with something looking like modern art. These are sets of seeming strangers who have profound links to one another that gradually surface – sometimes in rather shocking fashion – as events unfold. You have, for example, a young lady who discovers, as a young adult, that her sister and mother are not what they have always claimed to be. Then there’s a family that falls apart, against the backdrop of the 9/11 attacks no less, when a deadly emotional bombshell is dropped at the feet of the mother. The husband and daughter, as it turns out, are intimately connected with William’s past, playing a crucial part in his childhood separation from the rest of his family. Mucking up the waters even more is a detective who sort of plays two sets of characters against one another and becomes a major part of one of the novel’s most shocking surprises (and this is a book full of shocking surprises). With so many links emerging among so many characters, and with the author telling the story in a nonsequential manner, you really have to pay attention to what you’re reading. I sometimes had to pause and go over the cast of characters in my head in order to truly understand the consequences of certain revelations. This may sound like a wild daytime soap opera, but rest assured that Schleicher keeps everything real and gritty, leaving you awestruck by the depth of the misfortune that these people have had to endure.
Needless to say, you won’t find the words “and they lived happily ever after” on the last page of The Thief Maker, although a measure of peace does finally prevail in the end. The conclusion is a tight and fitting one, and I think Schleicher deserves some real literary kudos for pulling that off. With most mysteries, you get the big “reveal” scene at the end, and you basically forget about what you just read as soon as you put the book down. The Thief Maker, though, hangs around in your mind, percolating with its pathos and all of its insights into human relationships.
Ready to meet your Maker? Steal a copy of The Thief Maker…