Review: “Something Missing” by Matthew Dicks
I’ve spent this week talking about the books I read during last Saturday’s Readathon. I’ve gone in order from least favorite to most. Since this is my last review, we’ve reached my favorite Readathon read! See below for links to the rest of the week’s reviews.
My colleagues at my old bookstore job tried to tell me about Something Missing, the debut novel by Matthew Dicks. They told me over and over what it was about, how good it was. “Sounds cute,” I thought–and yet the galley I’d picked up on a whim languished on my shelf. While combing my shelves for quick, light, engaging Readathon reading, I happened across it again and figured, why not? Now I’m asking myself why the heck I waited so long!
About the Book:
Martin, a middle-aged man with OCD tendencies, runs a thriving business. He is maintains successful relationships with many long-term clients and is constantly acquiring new ones. His work ethic is admirable, his self discipline unswerving. He’s even read Jim Collins.
So what does Martin do? He is a professional thief. But he isn’t the sort of thief that draws attention to himself. Instead, he takes only small items — some Advil, a can of tomatoes, half a bottle of laundry detergent — that will not be missed, and he takes them only after prolonged and painstaking observation. His key to success, he knows, is his unerring adherence to the rules he’s developed.
And then, one day, he breaks a rule. He manages to wriggle out of a potentially disastrous situation, but something he overhears alters his sense of purpose. As he becomes a little too involved in his clients’ lives, Martin inadvertently sets off down a one-way path that will forever change his life.
Something Missing is about a thief, but I wouldn’t call it a crime novel. It’s not a mystery at all. You know who the thief is–his name is the first word you encounter on page one. It is, instead, a novel about a guy finding his way in life. Oh, and he just happens to be a career criminal.
Doesn’t that sound like fun? What an original plot, no? But what makes this book so very wonderful is its execution. Dicks writes the way Martin thinks, with precision and extreme organization, from the level of the whole story all the way down to each individual word. I loved all of Martin’s rules and the logic behind them. I was fascinated (and a little horrified) by his processes, the casual observations he made about homeowners and how he applied these generalities to his work.
And it’s funny, too. For example, as Martin tries to get a toothbrush out of its plastic case (quote is from an ARC):
“[H]e realized with unmitigated horror that the toothbrush was still encased in its plastic container, the type of plastic designed by the communist architects who built maximum security prisons for the North Koreans.”
Yep, I know exactly what sort of package the poor guy is facing.
As you’re reading, you know you really shouldn’t like a guy who cases people’s homes extensively and then steals from them for years. The things he does, if done by any other thief, would be despicable. And yet, I couldn’t help liking Martin. I mean, the guy reads Jim Collins, for goodness sake! He’s taught me things as well, such as always use the deadbolt on the back and side doors and, if a diamond earring goes missing, don’t spend too much time looking for it. As the story progresses, you start to think maybe he’s not such a bad guy after all.
From start to finish, Something Missing by Matthew Dicks was a delight. From its wildly original premise to its fascinating enigma of a main character, it pulled me in from the first page and held me riveted until the end. If you are looking for something light and fun and a little off-beat, give Something Missing a try.
Matthew Dicks also has a new book out, entitled Unexpectedly Milo. I might have to check it out!
Have you read Something Missing? Do you know of other books that are similar, maybe that are about a criminal without actually being a crime novel?
Readathon books I’ve reviewed so far:
- A Most Improper Magick by Stephanie Burgis
- The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
- Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Cholenko (audiobook)
- The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
And that’s all of them!