Thieves Like Us by Stephen Cole

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Thieves Like Us by Stephen Cole

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Category: Teens
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A jolly and fast-moving teen crime caper with mysterious artefacts, technological wizardry and plenty of double-crossing. It's all good fun and a light read for teens that's also accessible to younger keen readers.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: January 2007
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
ISBN: 978-0747589518

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Jonah Wish is is a cipherpunk. A talented code-breaker, he is currently languishing in a Youth Offenders Institute after helping his foster father to set up a business specialising in online encryption, then promptly hacking his own system and stealing half a million pounds. Languishing, that is, until the night a group of similarly talented teenagers appear and break him out. Jonah has been recruited by Nathaniel Coldhardt, a criminal mastermind whose latest operation needs his talents.

Two wealthy industrialists are racing to find the recipe for Amrita - an ancient potion, said to have given eternal life to the Ancient Egyptian healer Imhotep, also known as Ophiuchus the Serpent Handler. Coldhardt has been employed by one of them. Jonah is needed for ancient code decryption. Motti is the security specialist, Tye takes care of transport, Patch is the lock-picker and Con is the communications specialist - an expert in hypnotism. Every member of Coldhardt's young family has a very different talent but they all share one common trait - they have no other family, no ties, no one to miss them and no one to look out for their welfare.

Before Jonah knows it, he is hurtled into a life of fabulous luxury and danger - Coldhardt's family get designer clothes, big screen TVs, entire amusement arcades, swimming pools, jacuzzis and heaven knows what else to play with when they're not out on dangerous missions breaking into mansions, stealing artefacts or even investigating ancient tombs in the middle of the desert. Always, though, at the back of Jonah's mind is the need to be liked and to feel secure - what will happen to him when Coldhardt no longer requires his services?

I rather enjoyed Thieves Like Us - Cole has created some very sympathetic and well-rounded characters, each with a personal cross to bear that more than balances their special talent. He also builds tension exceptionally well and even as a jaded adult, I was turning pages more and more quickly towards the end. The action is obviously ludicrously far-fetched and fantastical but it's great fun and kept in check by the far more down to earth and recognisable emotions expressed by its cast.

Thieves Like Us is a jolly, fast-paced crime caper and enjoyable light read for the teen market. It is also light enough for younger readers of about ten and up to approach it with confidence - although nervous parents should note there is an amount of sexual tension between the characters and some portrayals of underage drinking. The violence, though, is all of a cartoon nature and although our young criminal masterminds are trained in self-defence, they don't initiate any of it. There are also some nice backlines about a child's need for love and approval and also about loyalty to one's friends to elevate it from the ranks of the merely superficial.

It's a reliable genre book and recommended for all youngsters who enjoy TV programmes such as The Hustle and films such as the recent hit, National Treasure.

My thanks to the publisher, Bloomsbury, for sending the book. We also have a review of Cole's The Bloodline Cipher.

Another thriller that can be enjoyed by a wide range of ages and involves a mysterious artefact is Steve Voake's The Starlight Conspiracy.

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knoswad said:

Really helpful in helping me get a better idea of the book before I buy it. Thanks! Can't wait to read it!