The Best Thing You Can Steal by Simon R Green

April 9, 2021

Welcome to London, but not as you know it. A place where magics and horror run free, wonders and miracles are everyday things, and the dark streets are full of very shadowy people . . .

Gideon Sable is a thief and a con man. He specializes in stealing the kind of things that can’t normally be stolen. Like a ghost’s clothes, or a photo from a country that never existed. He even stole his current identity. Who was he originally? Now, that would be telling. One thing’s for sure though, he’s not the bad guy. The people he steals from always have it coming.

Gideon’s planning a heist, to steal the only thing that matters from the worst man in the world. To get past his security, he’s going to need a crew who can do the impossible . . . but luckily, he has the right people in mind. The Damned, the Ghost, the Wild Card . . . and his ex-girlfriend, Annie Anybody. A woman who can be anyone, with the power to make technology fall in love with her.

If things go well, they’ll all get what they want. And if they’re lucky, they might not even die trying . . .

It’s always nice to be able to circle back to an author whose work you’ve enjoyed in the past. Simon R Green’s latest, The Best Thing You Can Steal, is a perfect example.  I remember revelling in the Deathstalker novels back in the day, escaping to adventure with Hawk and Fisher and devouring the Nightside series*. Then for reasons that I can’t properly explain, there has been a huge gap in my Green related reading. Mr Green happily continued to publish many, many new novels, but I didn’t get the chance to read any of them. Cut to the beginning of 2021, I’m perusing the upcoming releases on Net Galley and The Best Thing You Can Steal catches my eye. A new series by Simon R Green and a conveniently fortuitous gap in my reviewing schedule is a match made in heaven.

Gideon Sable is a thief, a con-man and a platinum rogue. He is also, if you are going to get all technical about it, not actually Gideon Sable. Hell, if you’re going to be a master thief you may as well be prepared to steal another person’s life. A new life means a plethora of new opportunities and our erstwhile anti-hero already has his eyes on a spectacular prize. To accomplish his audacious scheme, “Gideon” needs to put together a crew with a set of very particular skills. The mark in question is a thoroughly unpleasant sort who is well known for turning revenge into an art form. Best make sure nothing goes wrong then.

Gideon has to look high and low (mostly low) to locate the right individuals for the job. Queue the obligatory “getting the gang together” montage.

First in our team of delightfully criminal oddballs is Annie Anybody. She has a chameleon-like personality suitably for any occasion. She also has a past with Gideon. I’m sure that won’t be awkward at all.

Next, there is the muscle. The Damned is a walking advertisement for violence and barely contained rage. An unfortunate incident with Heaven and Hell has left its mark. As long as he doesn’t kill everyone, he’s bound to be a valuable asset.

When it comes to a reliable lookout there is really only one way you can go. The Ghost is exactly what he sounds like he should be. Always handy to have someone paranormal on-side who can stick their head through a brick wall to see what is going on on the other side.

Of all the supporting characters though, it’s Johnny Wilde, The Wild Card who stands out. When you’ve been given a glimpse behind the scenes of the universe there is a good chance it’s going to leave you more than a little unhinged. I don’t imagine your average human mind could comprehend the enormity of all existence and come out the other side without issues. The Wild Card is described as physically unremarkable, makes sense he was a hapless academic before the incident that we don’t talk about. Mentally though is an entirely different matter. I was picturing him as a Freakazoid-esque, forth wall breaking type. Right and wrong are concepts the Wild Card will take under advisement thank you very much. From Johnny’s skewed perspective, our reality is little more than a fuzzy guideline than anything set in stone. The bickering banter between Johnny and The Damned is great fun.

You don’t so much read a Simon R Green novel as grab on with both hands and hope you’re still alive at the end of the ride. For me, his writing is the very definition of pure, unadulterated escapism. The thing I’ve always enjoyed about Green’s style is I’ve always got the distinct impression he is having an absolute blast. His plots have all manner of mildly bonkers stuff happening and it all makes a certain amount of sense at the time. I’ve always been consistently entertained by his work and this latest novel is no exception.

The Best Thing You Can Steal is published by Severn House and is available now.

Every good robbery deserves a suitably tense soundtrack. My musical recommendation to accompany The Best Thing You Can Steal is Heist by James Edward Barker and Tim Despic. You know the drill by now, read one while listening to the other and enhance your enjoyment of both.

*Shotgun Suzy and Razor Eddie, Punk God of the Straight Razor, for the win!



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