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The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam    by Chris Ewan order for
Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam
by Chris Ewan
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2007 (2007)

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* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Well, here's a fun-filled mystery that will appeal to fans of good, old-fashioned crime capers. Written with flair by debut British novelist Chris Ewan, The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam is fresh, funny, and cleverly done.

When the action begins, British burglar-and-novelist (and narrator) Charlie Howard has been asked by American Michael Park to pull off a fairly bizarre burglary in Amsterdam: Simply break into two different residences and steal two rather ordinary looking figurines of monkeys (thus completing a hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil set). The seductiveness of the challenge proves to be too much for Charlie whose first instinct tells him to pass on Park's request. And when Charlie completes the burglary, all hell breaks lose.

Someone connected with the petty larceny has been badly beaten and killed, the third small monkey figurine is missing, and suddenly the police in Amsterdam are convinced that Charlie may have even been involved in the killing. But in the nick of time, a bar maid named Marieke - a woman with what seems to be more than a casual connection with Park - provides a bogus but believable alibi for Charlie. And, at the same time, an attorney who says his name is Rutherford (sent over by the British Embassy) also helps to expedite Charlie's release from the police.

Anxious to keep the police at arm's length, but also anxious to find out why the three small figurines seem to be so important to more than a few people (people who will do do anything to own the complete set of three), Charlie begins digging into the mystery of the worthless monkeys. Following a trail of clues that will involve duplicitous characters, illegal stashes in safe deposit boxes, a beautiful damsel in distress, con-artists, murderous thugs, deeply buried secrets, and a complicated high-stakes robbery that went terribly wrong years earlier, Charlie is more than capable of uncovering the truth.

Of course, more than a few obstacles stand in his way. Some are funny, but some are really dangerous. And in the end - in an old-fashioned resolution scene in which the clever sleuth confronts a gathering of all the key players (including the villain) - Charlie reveals the surprising solution (to his readers) and puts the finishing touches on The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam, one of this year's very best mysteries.

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