Truth is stranger than fiction, especially when the truth is being passed off as fiction, or vice-versa. The Thieves of Manhattan is a wild ride that not only skewers the book publishing industry but takes the reader on an engaging tale of deceit where friends turn out to be enemies and opportunities turn out to be traps.
Ian Minot and Jed Roth are on opposite ends of the book publishing spectrum, Ian a struggling writer working at a New York City coffee shop, Jed a publishing executive. Besides both loving books, Ian and Jed also share a hatred of literary fraud (their foil in the story resembles James Frey).
One day, Jed comes to Ian with a plan so crazy it might work. Jed has written an action/adventure novel about the theft of rare, priceless ancient manuscripts. Nobody, it seems, wants to publish it (not even his own shop). Jed suggests that Ian re-work the manuscript, add his own touches, then present the tale as his MEMOIR. Once the book becomes a hit, he admits the whole thing was a hoax and uses the attention to publish his real writing. For Jed, the plan includes taking a large chunk of the money and getting his revenge on an industry that has come to reward fakes and hacks.
Having just lost his job at the coffee shop, Ian agrees. Fast-forward in time, and the hoax rapidly becomes a writer’s dream. It’s been picked up by a major publisher, selected as book of the month and featured on an influential TV talk show.
Soon after the book is released, however, Ian starts to get harassed and threatened by people who bear striking resemblances to characters in his ‘fictional memoir.’ Ian confronts Jed, who admits that the story was not fiction after all. Jed took his own memoir, told Ian it was fiction, and the fiction was then re-packaged as the truth.
The Thieves of Manhattan reveals the gray area between the truth and a lie - a thin, slippery gray area. Readers will be entertained as Ian’s world becomes unraveled as this vast book publishing conspiracy is discovered. The ending holds some pleasant surprises that will not be revealed here.
Pros: A wildly imaginative plot with funny insight into the book publishing world.
Cons: Some ‘inside jokes’ might be lost on those not in (or interested in) the industry; Langer creates his own slang, which he over-uses at times.
Bottom Line: Thieves is a winner that will reward readers with a highly entertaining and engaging tale of trust and deceit. Readers will always wonder about the ‘truthiness’ of each book they read in the future. RECOMMENDED.