This picaresque masterpiece has won wide acclaim in Japan, Asia, and the United States for its compelling realism, which delivers both thrills and food for thought. The thief of the title, who is also the narrator, is a professional pickpocket working in Tokyo. He dresses in expensive suits and coats so as not to stand out or draw suspicion (though his feet are clad in sneakers, in case he needs to run), and he targets only the well-heeled, deftly slipping their wallets from their pockets. A moral nihilist, he is without family, girlfriend, or any other personal connections, and he has no interests apart from his trade. His long fingers are well-suited to the job, the index and middle fingers being nearly the same length, and he is ambidextrous. Some time ago, the thief and his partner Ishikawa were effectively forced to participate in a heist they didn't really want to be part of. It was supposed to be easy: they and four other men would break into the home of a wealthy old man to steal his money and some papers; the thief's assignment was to tie up the man's live-in girlfriend, for which he was promised a five million yen cut. The break-in appeared to go off without a hitch, but then the news reported not only that the man they'd robbed was a prominent politician but that he had been killed. Also disturbing was the fact that Ishikawa went missing immediately afterwards. The thief realized he'd been dragged into some kind of mysterious political intrigue orchestrated by break-in mastermind Kizaki.
After skipping town to wait for things to blow over, the thief has recently made a quiet return. Then, as if he's been keeping tabs on him all along, Kizaki reappears to act as the master of his fate, telling him he must complete three missions. If he fails, he will be killed; if he flees, a woman he has befriended will be killed, along with her child. He has no escape . . .