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What Does a Master Thief Look Like?

What Does a Master Thief Look Like?

Fantasy stories involving thieves have been my favorite for years. I've read LOTS of them—from The Queen's Thief by Megan Whalen Turner to The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (my personal favorite) to the Riyira series by Michael Sullivan. Of course, I had to go and write my own series, beginning with Child of the Night Guild (Queen of Thieves Book 1)! Do you know what all these series have in common? They all describe thieves pretty much the same way: short, slim, compact, strong but not heavily muscled, agile, and clever. The best thieves tend to fall into this category—not only the ones in fantasy, but even the thieves in real life. An article in Psychology Today described Blane Nordahl, the man who was known as the "Master Silver Thief". Between 1990 and 2003, he stole sterling silver flatware in the Northeastern United States. He was more than just a burglar—he was a master thief, an artist. The article gave an interesting description of him. The description below pretty much sums up what a master thief looks, acts, and thinks like:
  • Short. Nordahl was 5'4".
  • Slim, compact, and strong. He was built like a gymnast, with a slim waist and narrow shoulders perfect for slipping into tight spaces.
  • Educated. Not book-smart, but educated in the latest home security systems, including how to defeat them.
  • Invisible. Not ACTUALLY invisible (a la H.G. Wells novel), but clever enough to get in and out without damaging the homes. Instead of breaking glass doors or windows, he would cut the molding and stack the window panes neatly.
  • Smart at selecting the goods to steal. Sterling silver flatware is easy to fence, or it can be melted down and sold for scrap metal.
  • Clever in selecting targets. He burgled mansions where the owners were either asleep far from the kitchen or out of town. He would break into summer/winter homes when he knew the occupants would be far away. He looked for homes away from the main roads, often those with long access roads or driveways.
  • Prepared. He had a duffel bag that carried everything he'd need: another empty nylon bag, screwdrivers, a carpet knife, wire cutters, a wood chisel, nail pullers, a flashlight, a white cotton rag, duct tape, white cotton gardening gloves, and a small pry bar.
  • Patient. He could spend up to an hour or more cutting his way into the homes. It was all about precision, which requires patience.
The article gives a lot more details on this master thief, including some of his AMAZING adventures. It's a fascinating look at the kind of person who becomes a master thief, and the things they do to avoid detection.