Readers may think they are in for a roller-coaster thriller of a book full of twists and turns reading the blurb for “The Readymade Thief.” It all sounds quite exciting — “a novel of puzzles, conspiracies, secret societies, urban exploration” — but between the covers, there lies quite a different tale.
“The Readymade Thief” does start off at quite a nice pace. Readers will immediately be drawn to the quiet, invisible Lee. While she is a small-time thief and that may make her unlikeable to some, readers will have to admit that there is something compelling about her character. Readers may feel a bit like Lee’s friends Edie, Tomi and Annie who all tell Lee, in some fashion or another, that she is like a small bird that someone just needs to take care of. There is something about Lee that draws readers into the story — her story. Readers will come to care about this down-on-her-luck teen and hope that everything ends up OK on the last page.
Beyond that, “The Readymade Thief” is difficult to discern and understand. The world of the Societe Anonyme and its weird obsession with Marcel Duchamp’s artwork, specifically “The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass)” and “Within Hidden Noise” provide pivotal conflict in the story. Since much of the plot of the story is wrapped around the meaning behind “The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass)” and “Within Hidden Noise” and their purpose and meaning, readers who struggle with seeing the art in their minds’ eye as described on the pages may struggle with this novel.
Even looking at pictures of both pieces online may not help make the descriptions of the artwork clear as the members of the Societe Anonyme are hellbent on making a moving three-dimensional version of “The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass).” These two Duchamp pieces have some connection, according to the Societe Anonyme, with physics and The Unified Field Theory which leads to confusing long-winded scientific explanations a couple of times in the novel.
Underlying all of this confusing talk about art and string theory, Rose lays out a beautiful young love story between Lee and Tomi. Possibly the most pleasant thing in the book, readers will cherish Tomi and his obvious affection for Lee. And they will smile and nod knowingly as Lee denies her obvious attraction to Tomi.
Lee struggles with discerning truth from fiction and her entire life hinges on finding the truth. Sadly, the pursuit of that truth leads to a lot of senseless killing not just by the antagonists in the story.
The numerous deaths that happen in the last third of book seem to serve no purpose in the story. There may have been better or at least other ways for the Societe Anonyme to push Lee where they needed her to go. But instead, Rose chose the route of killing almost anyone close to Lee that may have mattered in her once quiet and invisible life.
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“The Readymade Thief” is not what is advertised in its blurb. It’s a slow-moving mystery, with a love story on the side, wrapped up in the confusing artwork of Marcel Duchamp and the world of physics. Rose does not capitalize on the suspense that conspiracy theory-based books often have at their heart. As a result, “The Readymade Thief” becomes a chore and bore to find out if our heroine survives the crazy attempts of the Societe Anonyme to bring Duchamps’s “The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass)” to life.