The Thief (2006)

In Rendell's own words:

"These novellas, I suppose you'd call them, are supposed to be written in short paragraphs, lots of dialogue, short sentences, words of two syllables -- occasionally longer if it's a word in very common use -- without any flashbacks or juggling about with time. I have done it and I hope it's all right. I didn't like doing it and I'll never do it again." (Harrogate Crime Writing Festival, July 22 2005)


  • This novella-length (128 pages) work is being published as part of the Quick Read campaign for World Book Day 2006. A total of 16 titles, each between 15-20,000 words, will be produced, with eight (including Rendell's) launched on March 3, 2006. Literacy has been one of the main issues Rendell has focused on during her time in the House of Lords.
  • The cover offers the following plot summary: "Stealing things from people who had upset her was something Polly did quite a lot. There was her Aunt Pauline; a girl at school; a boyfriend who left her; and there was the man on the plane. . . Humiliated and scared, by a total stranger, Polly does what she always does. She steals something. But she never could have imagined that her desire for revenge would have such terrifying results."
  • Despite Rendell's comments above, the novel does feature one flashback, when Polly recalls stealing a bag from her friend Louise in chapter six.

  • Publication date: March 2, 2006
    Dedication: None

    "I have read two: The Thief, by Ruth Rendell, and The Book Boy, by Joanna Trollope. Both are thoughtful and bear the clear marks of their authors’ style. Having read them, you would want to read something else by the same person. From a writer’s point of view, the exercise is a striking lesson in how hard a thing simplicity is." - Jane Shilling, The Times

    UK edition

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