First-time novelist Tom Grass mixes the pickpocketing-street-orphans concept of Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist with death-defying derring-do to create the breathless art-heist thriller Twist. In this clever reboot, the eponymous hero is an 18-year-old homeless graffiti artist who uses his street smarts and parkour abilities to elude the police pursuing him for consistent vandalism and breaking parole.
When Twist paints a larger-than-life replica of a famous painting on the very museum housing the masterpiece, apprehending him becomes a priority. He is caught and badly beaten by the police, but a gang of thieves led by a man named Fagin comes to his rescue. In return, the group insists Twist join their profession: stealing stolen priceless artworks and returning them to the rightful owners. Twist sees through Fagin's claim of working with insurance companies to recover stolen property, but before he can refuse Fagin's mentorship, Twist meets Red, a beautiful gang member and its best thief. Twist is smitten, despite Red being attached to an older and meaner member. Blinded by a hopeless attraction to Red and a desperate desire for a better life, Twist agrees to join Fagin's group to pull off a dangerous heist with a potentially huge payoff.
Grass's Twist turns Dickens's children into self-sufficient, computer-savvy young adults. The Oliver in this version is neither defined by nor a victim of his past, but his pluck and moral center make him an even stronger hero than the original. From the opening pages to the vertigo-inducing climatic battle on a rooftop, this modern-day thriller screams for a movie adaptation. --Paul Dinh-McCrillis, freelance reviewer