Publication Date: July 27, 2014
In Thieves in the Night by Brendan Ball, Dan, a reformed criminal, and Bron, a jaded musician, are brought together by a love of music. As Bron sinks into Dan’s world can he find an escape with the beautiful Cal?
Thieves in the Night is a darkly beautiful work of fiction. The novel is the story of Dan, a former bad boy, and Bron, a jaded musician. Ball’s narrative jumps around in time. We started in 1999 in London and then travel back to 1995 as Dan’s girlfriend is giving birth in the hospital. We’re with him as he ferrets out a possible affair. In a sense, he takes it as something he should have known and then lets the reader in on his intent. He doesn’t leave the hospital, instead, he goes in to stand bleakly as his girlfriend names the child after her lover. “Jealousy is a weakness,” Dan tell us “A woman leaves and you get another.” So many points tie back in the novel to other points and Dan’s thoughts on jealousy are one of those points. There are times when the story feels like a series of short stories strung together with common characters and when reading that way, the overall effect can be quite poetic.
The cynicism of the characters is manic and shares a depth of rationalization of the criminal mind. If a horrible wrong is done, what does going to jail solve? If you’ve killed someone, it doesn’t bring him or her back? Like the classic characters in the work of Charles Dickens, Dan, Bron and Jimmy live in a world that readers will be interested in visiting but in which they’d never want to live. The sense of the writing quality is the best of British drama. Bron’s narrative is written in the first person. He is perhaps a bit innocent and maybe a bit trusting, rather like the reader might be. The reader suspects that at some point all will go terribly wrong with the faith that Bron puts in Dan. We’re with him in his life, mind and motivations. Dan is always from a distance. We never really get to know Dan too well, but at the end of Thieves in the Night, I was thinking that perhaps it was a blessing.
Ball’s description of setting is bleak and brilliant. My favorite phrase in Thieves in the Night (and perhaps any book) was at Kindle location 1467. “…and the lampshade threw an absence of light…” Ball seems to be a master of the picturesque turn of phrase. While a character-driven novel, the author does not skimp on the setting. At location 1627 when Dan is coming off of a high, he describes an officer his advance as “woolen bulk rolled across the tiles.” I cannot overstate the descriptive beauty of the language Ball uses in his work. This descriptive beauty translates to the dialogue. Infused with regional dialect, for the most part, the dialogue feels very natural.
While I did find Thieves in the Night difficult to get into and impossible to follow at times, after a period of adjustment the esoteric charm of the novel cannot be denied. This is not a novel for everyone. If you need a very linear story, this is not the novel for you. If you’re not a person who can read drug use or violence, this is not the novel for you. If you’d like a look at the darker side of London life, Thieves in the Night just may be the perfect read for you.
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