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I’m putting together a book heist crew.

April 30, 2024, 1:42pm

Last week over 100 cops from the EU’s police agency fanned out over Georgia and Latvia to bust a group of criminals who stole around 170 antique books from libraries across Europe. Over two years, the gang is suspected in the robbery of “rare books mainly written by Russian writers—including first editions by Alexander Pushkin and Nikolai Gogol,” from “national and historical libraries in Czechia, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Switzerland.”

I imagine some movie executive has already flagged this story for adaptation, and if a script treatment isn’t already in development, it should be—Oceans 11 meets the Scholastic Book Fair and set in gorgeous old European libraries? Come on, you’ll have every book club buying tickets in bulk.

Every good heist movie needs a montage to assemble the crew, and if I were putting together the first-act sequence to introduce our team of bookish bandits, here’s who I would include.

Hollywood—email me.

The Career Book Robber: Melanie is smooth-talking, charismatic, and dapper, and she’s just getting out of prison after a couple-year stint for stealing first editions by every American poet laureate from Ivy League libraries. The Ivies’ high-powered lawyers threw the book-crimes book at her, and she spent her time away catching up on her reading, and plotting her revenge with one last big book score…

The Muscle: Dirk is the former bodyguard for Oprah’s Book Club—his job was ensuring that the briefcase with the Club’s picks arrived safely at the TV studio. It was a surprisingly dangerous job, since the big publishers would send their interns after Dirk if they were upset over that month’s picks.

Dirk always got the job done.

Now he’s just trying to enjoy his retirement—kicking back with his beloved Library of America editions and the latest Book Club pick—when he gets pulled out of his reading chair for one last job…

A Getaway Driver: By day you can find the soft-spoken Frankie driving library carts in Queens’ public libraries, but by night he’s the former king of the underground circulation cart racing circuit. Not many book circulation jockeys can hack it on the no-holds-barred, rough-and-tumble reshelving scene, and Frankie is a legend.

But he retired abruptly after his best friend died in a deadly cart crash at an underground race in Flushing. But if the offer is right, Frankie might just come out of retirement for one last, very high-stakes job…

The Ultimate Librarian: Gladis has seen some shit in her years behind some of the toughest check-out counters in the library game. She’s worked the messiest children’s sections, reorganized the dustiest rare book sections, and stamped the checkout cards of some of the world’s best writers. She can recite the entire Dewey Decimal System forwards and backward from memory, and has a custom self-inking date stamp that is always accurate down to the minute.

But Gladis knows she has to give notice at her cushy retirement job at a Hawaiian beachside library when she gets a hold request from an old friend, asking her to make one last off-the-record check-out…

The European Connection: Heading overseas will require assistance from Helga, the Eurozone’s go-to cover designer, who works nights forging international library cards. She’s on hand to handle documents and answer questions about European books: How does the Universal Decimal Classification system work? Where are the cool Frankfurt Book Fair afterparties? Why are French book covers so spare?

Helga thinks she’s out of the heist game when she gets a literary magazine’s branded hat in the mail—which she wouldn’t be caught dead wearing—and knows exactly who is pulling her for one last graphic design job…

The Critic: They say there are no jobs in criticism anymore, but every book heist crew needs the unsparing eye of a critic. Suvi is the world’s most reclusive and mysterious book critic: she’s pulled nearly every essay she’s written before publication over fights with editors, is hiding from some authors who want to duel her and some authors who want to marry her, and writes a monthly newsletter on the dark web.

So who’s knocking at the door of her remote Finnish cabin? It’s either her mailperson/part-time lover bringing her a fresh stack of ARCs, or it’s an old friend offering her millions to bring her sharp critical eye out for one last job…

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