The Thief by Claire North. ★★★★
The Thief is the second book in North’s Gameshouse series, a trilogy of novellas. I would recommending reading the prior story, The Serpent, before picking up The Thief.
The Gameshouse contains two levels, one where ordinary games are played and a more exclusive one with games of a much more extraordinary sort…
Remy Burke is a veteran player of the Gameshouse. Then one night he gets drunk and makes an unwise bet – his memories on a game of hide and seek. The playing board? All of Thailand, 1938. The odds are stacked against him, but he must win if he wants to keep his mind.
The Thief is far more fast paced than its predecessor. The story starts about twenty minutes before the game, with Remy waking up in his hotel room and remembering what’s at stake. For most of the book, he’s on the run from his incredibly (and unfairly) powerful opponent. He’s a six foot tall white man trying to remain unnoticed in pre-WWII Thailand. While the plot had the greater focus, there were some nice character moments as well.
Elements in The Thief are building up to a likely show down in the final installment. The Gameshouse is not as fair or impartial as it claims to be, and one man is gathering the resources to challenge it.
As ever with Claire North, the writing is lovely. She’s dropped some of the stylistic experimentations from The Serpent, such as the use of dashes instead of quotation marks. I think this was the right call, but I still like the use of the mysterious and invisible beings who narrate.
The Gameshouse series is heading some interesting places, and I look forward to reading the last story.