As the title indicates, this book is about a thief. Our thief Lee begins her career stealing trinkets from her friend’s mom’s closet, ends up shoplifting for kids at school, she then becomes her high school’s Morgan Freeman in Shawshank Redemption, who’s been “known to locate certain things from time to time.” (Some of these things are drugs and this will be pertinent in a minute.)
Our protagonist, Lee also has bad luck with companions. Her dad, who seems decent, except for the time he left her in the car when she was four, while he fucked his gay lover in the park, leaves her without a trace. Eventually, she meets her best friend Edie, who ultimately sells her out to the police, resulting in Lee getting sent to juvie. Then her mom and her step-dad steal all the money she earned from drug dealing (I told you it was pertinent). It makes for depressing reading as Lee is abandoned and betrayed by everyone she has ever cared about, but something about this cavalcade of betrayal is compelling and fuels the rest of the story onward.
After escaping from prison, she happens upon Crystal Castle, — a drug induced prostitution ring, posing as a home for wayward vagabonds — gets out before it’s too late, stealing a ball of twine in the process, which turns out to be a sculpture by Conceptualist Marcel Duchamp. From here, the book is reminiscent of The Da Vinci Code, if the Da Vinci code was interesting and written by someone literate. A cabal of Duchamp fanatics anticipates Lee’s every move, in order to retrieve the relic that Lee has stolen as she couch-surfs through short-term abandoned houses and explores the underground urban scene of Philadelphia. Eventually she meets the Boss Monster, who is only in the murderous, child-exploitative, drug-dealing cult in order to find the secret of the universe hidden in Duchamp’s sculptures, at which point he exposits the remainder of the plot for anyone left wondering what has been happening for the last 300 pages. Overall, It was a pretty good read.
For me the first half of this novel went very quickly. I enjoy a runaway story. Some of this was reminiscent of From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler or one of those “the children runaway or are orphaned and live in the abandoned building” stories. It started moving more slowly for me when I got into the Duchamp society stuff, because why would these people obsessed with Duchamp be willing to murder, and how are they so omnipotent, and did Duchamp really believe he was creating a machine that could change the world as we know it, but judging by the acknowledgments it seems the Duchamp stuff was well researched, so there seems to be something to the Duchamp conspiracy and as anyone who has lived through 2020 knows (really as anyone who has lived through any period of time knows), people are willing to kill and kidnap in the name of a lot of weird conspiracy stuff, even if it doesn’t have any basis in reality, or in the original creator or expositors idea. Maybe this is the lesson: It is in our nature to find community. Sometimes, this need is met in a group of people devoted to some weird stuff, especially if we find meaning or companionship in it. And so we should be careful how far we take actions based on our beliefs. It is noble to be willing to die for something, but deluded to be willing to kill for it. I don’t know.
Anyway, this was a solid debut. It is well written and seems to be well researched. I look forward to Rose’s next thing.
My Rating: 8.5/10