rating: 4 of 5 stars
Take Ocean's 11, throw in some Godfather, and set it in 1850s London, and you've got The Great Train Robbery.
Other reviewers talk about plotting and characterization and diction; I'll let you read their reviews for that. I want to communicate that this book offers something that few books offer: genuine, thought-provoking fun. Much like Ocean's 11. Mr. Crichton uses the book to make a statement, but the statement isn't blatant, like you might see from movies like An Inconvenient Truth or Syriana. Rather, Mr. Crichton draws his characters in such a way that you (realistically) grow fond of those of whom you should not grow fond--and therein lies his statement. For example, the hero/villain is a master thief, both of money and of class. He is a fraud, a liar, and a cold-blooded killer. But you love him like you love Danny Ocean or Vito Corleone.
Mr. Crichton's message, I believe, is that good and evil are not so clearly cut as we tend to think. But he doesn't tell you that in a boring way full of rumination. Rather, he tells it in the fascinating story of the perfect heist, much like Ocean's 11.
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