The Good Thief: Hannah Tinti

At the start of Hannah Tinti’s debut novel, twelve-year-old, one-handed Ren has been stuck in an orphanage for as long as he can remember. He doesn’t know how he lost his hand or what happened to his parents. When Benjamin Nab comes to take him away, it becomes clear that Ren is being claimed by a yarn-spinning charmer. Ren doesn’t know what to believe, and the fear we felt for Ren’s safety in the orphanage is only amplified as Benjamin’s tales get taller. As Benjamin takes Ren on a violent and surprising journey, doing whatever it takes to get by, Tinti draws a ghoulish, petrifying, film-ready, nineteenth-century America, full of shady characters. They are all richly and subtly portrayed but Ren is a constant delight; he has idealised the notion of family in the absence of one, and he is relentlessly battling the moral dilemma of how to be good when surrounded by evil. He doesn’t know who to trust, and neither does the reader, so this becomes a page turner of the highest order.

The Good Thief is literary fiction with a plot to rival Dickens and Stevenson. Tinti’s previous book is a collection of short stories, which I am about to seek out.