Nakamura’s first novel to be translated into English is a very dark tale, gritty and graphic, about the life and times of a career pick-pocket in Tokyo. The first person narrator (unnamed until page 53 – Nishimura) is well dressed and groomed. He blends in those places where the rich congregate so he can lift wallets and watches and the like because … well … that’s what he does, it’s his job – and he loves his job
Nishimura is NOT a nice guy however there is a real ”save the cat” moment early on enabling the reader to at least semi-sympathize with him. What happens is he prevents a man from groping a young teen-age girl on a train – the author has “saved the cat” and the reader knows that this is a basically decent guy – he’s okay. This might lend a bit of credence to his ideas, too – a bit – maybe. Because for all his words about undermining morality, he upholds it in his own way. This moral side shows again in his involvement with a young boy and his prostitute mother who is forcing the boy to shoplift.
I found the little history of pickpockets very interesting. George Barrington is an historical person, the others are from literature and movies – some invented probably.
There were parts which were really gritty and hard to read – but somehow the writing and the general sympathy I felt for the hero carried me through.
The style is minimal and elegant although that sometimes gets in the way of what plot there is – not a good thing, imo. But this is really a “crime” novel in the sense that it deals with illegal actions and the mind of an intelligent criminal – the practicalities and the philosophical justifications of pick-pocketing – of life in the world of crime. It’s more like Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment than Creole Belle by James Lee Burke. I liked it.