The Best Thing You Can Steal by Simon R. Green
Simon R. Green is the sort of author I want to call “redoubtable”, a major player in the fantasy fiction scene since the 1990s but curiously much better known in America than in Britain. Moving from the space-opera sagas that characterised his early career (the Deathstalker series), his more recent books tend to be fairly short, pretty savvy and geared around nifty ideas, knowing dialogue and pop-cultural references (the whole “Secret Histories” series played a riff on James Bond). They usually involve worlds that are pretty much like this one but where recognisable urban settings can open up onto Heaven, Hell or various undefined dimensions and nobody quite knows the rules. He’s also got a great line in great lines – “A few wisps of mist curled around the headstones, as though they felt someone should be making an effort.”
Good time for a review as “The Best Thing You Can Steal” is the first in a new series featuring thief and con-man Gideon Sable, whose suitably uncanny back story will undoubtedly get expanded in future novels. Here, though, we’re dropped into his plans for a massive heist in an almost but entirely not familiar London, and Green follows all the rules that govern your classic heist movie, a large part of which must involve putting the gang together. You’d expect misfits, but Sable has to deal with the cursed, the magically seductive and the dead. And he’s trying to steal a television set that can show the past from an obsessive collector of all things (seriously) weird, using a plan devised by one Gideon Sable, now deceased, whose identity he has taken on … Much humour flashing through the tension, an unerringly noir atmosphere and some sharp dialogue – perfect holiday reading.