Book Review: The Part-Time Thief and Other Appraisal Stories

The Part-Time Thief and Other Appraisal Stories

My copy of Susan R. Stoltz's The Part-Time Thief And Other Appraisal Stories arrived with an ostrich on the cover.


A mean ostrich.

The kind of ostrich you just know is looking for the first possible chance to mess with anyone who gets within twenty feet of him. The kind of ostrich who surveys his territory with a manic gleam in his giant eyes, just waiting to pounce on – and swallow – any shiny object that happens to cross his path.

And I thought, "No, surely not."

Most of the books I get from small presses don't spend much time in the graphics department. Many of them sport cover art that has nothing whatsoever to do with their contents. The Part-Time Thief, for instance, is supposed to be filled with appraisal stories. It says so in the title. There's just no way an appraiser is going to wind up staring down the gullet of a nine-foot-tall bird, is there?

There is.

In fact, not only is a thieving ostrich one of the many colorful characters Stoltz encounters in her tales, but it's not even the most colorful. By the time this bird rolls around, he almost seems par for the course: Stoltz has already been offered a fortune by a kindly cross-dresser, been chased by bison (plural), and uncovered a home-based lettuce-growing operation. And she's just getting started.

Along with the "surprise! we mean ostriches!" cover art, this book raises an eyebrow on first glance because it's surprisingly small. The Part-Time Thief clocks in at 88 pages, or just under the size of your average poetry chapbook. In most cases, 88 pages barely makes a respectable young adult book, let alone a readable memoir. But once again, the appearance of The Part-Time Thief belies its contents: every corner of this book is packed with engaging, feel-good humor that makes for just plain good reading. The only down side to this book's size is that it ends so quickly. The title page identifies it as "Book 1," however, so I can only hope that The Part-Time Thief will soon have multiple siblings.

The Part-Time Thief also offers a great heads-up for new appraisers or those considering appraisal as a career. Appraisal clearly makes for good stories to tell at cocktail parties, it also involves some hair-raising moments, whether they involve bizarre pets or folks who are just a little too protective of their property. Although my own experience with appraisers has been limited to taking their testimony from the confines of my law office, The Part-Time Thief doesn't take much reading between the lines for even my inexperienced brain to understand that appraisal isn't just measuring lot lines or identifying termite damage. It requires tact, diplomacy, compassion, and the ability to think fast – and run faster.

The Part-Time Thief is a great choice for appraisers, potential appraisers, loan officers, and anyone else who enjoys a glimpse into the highs and lows of another's profession. Some teenagers may also enjoy the book, although parents should strongly consider perusing it first – some of the tales contain violent or sexual themes that some teens aren't ready to handle.

The Part Time Thief and Other Appraisal Stories Susan R. Stoltz. Paint Horse Press (electronic edition by Garlic Press), 2010. 88 pp. $9.95. ISBN: 9781453802502.