Portrait of a Thief

Li, Grace D.


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Hodder & Stoughton
13 April 2023
ISBN: 9781529386417
384 pages

From the publisher

"A remarkably assured debut" Sunday Times

"This is as much a novel as a reckoning." New York Times

The characters are alluring and ... engaging. So too are the emotional struggles the crew endure as they try to balance duty to family with their love for China and the need to understand their own personalities." Literary Review

"This is the heist novel we deserve. Brilliantly twisty and yet so contemplative [...] this book will continue to haunt you long after you've reached the end."
-Jesse Q. Sutanto, author of Dial A for Aunties

"Portrait of a Thief was everything I imagined and more. The writing felt close and intimate and the characters felt like portraits themselves, bursting with life and delicately human."
-Morgan Rogers, author of Honey Girl

"Grace D. Li is a virtuosic storyteller [...] the most exciting debut I've read this year [...] an intelligent page-turner that will keep you hooked until the very end."
-Lauren Wilkinson, New York Times bestselling author of American Spy

"In this slick, dazzling, debut, the stakes are high and the writing elegant. Here's a story that offers not just adventure or a reprieve from the everyday, but big dreams, big hearts, enduring friendships, and the multitudes of identities that can exist within each one of us."
-Weike Wang, author of Chemistry

"A beautiful examination of identity as children of the diaspora [...] This fast-paced heist leaves you clutching the pages and rooting for the thieves."
-Roselle Lim, author of Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune

"A lyrical and action-packed tale of yearning, connection, self-discovery, and righting wrongs, Portrait of a Thief is a unique vision of what it means to come home."
-Delilah S. Dawson, New York Times bestselling author of The Violence

This was how things began: Boston on the cusp of fall, the Sackler Museum robbed of 23 pieces of priceless Chinese art. Even in this back room, dust catching the slant of golden, late-afternoon light, Will could hear the sirens. They sounded like a promise.

Will Chen, a Chinese American art history student at Harvard, has spent most of his life learning about the West - its art, its culture, all that it has taken and called its own. He believes art belongs with its creators, so when a Chinese corporation offers him a (highly illegal) chance to reclaim five priceless sculptures, it's surprisingly easy to say yes.

Will's crew, fellow students chosen out of his boundless optimism for their skills and loyalty, aren't exactly experienced criminals. Irene is a public policy major at Duke who can talk her way out of anything; Daniel is pre-med with steady hands and dreams of being a surgeon. Lily is an engineering student who races cars in her spare time; and Will is relying on Alex, an MIT dropout turned software engineer, to hack her way in and out of each museum they must rob.

Each student has their own complicated relationship with China and the identities they've cultivated as Chinese Americans, but one thing soon becomes certain: they won't say no.

Because if they succeed? They earn an unfathomable ten million each, and a chance to make history. If they fail, they lose everything . . . and the West wins again.