Simon R Green is a prolific English science fiction and fantasy author with plenty of well loved series to his name including the Nightside and Deathstalker series. The Best Thing You Can Steal can be read as a stand alone but given it is subtitled as “A Gideon Sable Novel” it is likely to be the start of another long running urban fantasy franchise.
The main character of The Best Thing You Can Steal is called Gideon Sable but he is not actually the famous master thief of that name. Rathe,r it is another person, whose real name the reader never learns, also a thief, who has stolen Sable’s identity and some of his eldritch equipment. He plans to carry out, essentially on Sable’s behalf, the heist to end all heists. Sable’s target is the secret vault of Frederick Hammer, who as the book progresses emerges as the most amoral and nasty characters around. While there is plenty of loot in the vault, Sable’s prime target is a television that can see into both the past and the future, and he is armed with some knowledge of what the real Gideon had seen on the TV about the heist itself.
Like all good heists, Sable needs a crew and almost the first half of the book has him tooling around Green’s fantasy-inspired London to put that team to together. This includes learning why they all have reasons for wanting to take revenge on Hammer. The team includes Sables old girlfriend Annie Anyone who has a magical affinity for machines and a knack for disguises, a man called the Damned for muscle, a ghost and a man called Charlie Wilde, or the Wild Card, who has seen “behind the curtain of reality” and can do random bizarre things.
The rest of the book goes as you would expect – Sable puts the team together, they do a trial run, they go off to do the heist and nothing goes according to plan, or does is it? Despite the various twists and turns there are absolutely no surprises here. And most of the narrative is just that: narrative. The book is almost all telling rather than showing. And while the milieu that Green creates, a London full of magic with some religious overtones, is interesting, it is not enough to carry what is essentially a boilerplate heist tale or likely to bring readers back for any planned sequels.