Portrait of a Thief

Books on Tape. Apr. 2022. 11:21 hrs. ISBN 9780593510964. $85.50. THRILLER
Li’s debut, a literary heist novel involving looted Chinese art, will undoubtedly be compared to Crazy Rich Asians, as both novels play with genre in order to explore the difficulty of juggling multiple cultural identities, and specifically, what it means to be Chinese American. Another strong central theme is the ethics of modern museums displaying stolen art. The novel alternates between frantic heist sequences and slower, but still gripping, character moments. The audiobook, narrated by Eunice Wong and Austin Ku, splits the point-of-view characters by gender, which mostly works, though it sometimes makes the chapters run together if a narrator reads several in a row. Further, since the characters frequently interact with each other, listeners will have to learn two sets of voices for the character. Still, both narrators are a pleasure to listen to, bringing each character’s struggles to life. Their performance is vital to keeping the introspective parts of the story as interesting as the heist sections. 
VERDICT Listeners may finish this book feeling as if they’ve learned plenty, but so palatably wrapped in cleverly delicious plotting.
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