Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Thief by Ruth Rendell

Cover shown is the 2006 Arrow Books (UK) first edition. Cover photograph by Richard Dunkley. 86p.

The Thief is part of the Quick Reads series, designed to encourage adults who wouldn't normally read, to do so. This may explain the simple wording and sentences, but it doesn't explain why the book is so horribly bad.

The story is interesting enough: Polly, a 20-something Londoner who stole and destroyed family and friend's valued items as a child - and who still lies regularly as an adult - meets Trevor on a flight to New York. He is rude and twice as good a liar as she is. He accuses her of being an alcoholic (which she may well be), purposefully spills his coffee on her pants suit and scares her silly. She then meets him again on the flight home - where he lies to the flight crew about her and makes it known she is an alcoholic.

After the plane lands she spies Trevor's distinctive suitcase on the luggage carousel and, still smarting from his treatment of her, she steals it. She leaves it in the ladies toilets and takes the contents home, where she discovers it consists of dirty clothes and $10,000 in cash. What follows is several days of torment for Polly as she attempts to locate Trevor in order to return the money, while spinning lie after lie to her live-in boyfriend to cover her tracks. Her boyfriend values honesty above all else, and Polly has spent years "bettering" herself for his benefit - now, all that is gone and she is back to where she was as a child.

As expected, it is Trevor who will have the last laugh - he is simply too clever at lying.

There was little tension build-up in this book, and I certainly didn't care what happened to any of the characters. The description of Polly's lying, thieving childhood activities seemed quite tame and certainly didn't explain why she should get her comeuppance in such a terrible way. Her relationship with her boyfriend came across as one-dimensional and stilted, and Polly herself seemed to be a bit of a halfwit. The one shining light was the obnoxious Trevor, who, for all his rotten ways, was at least interesting.

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