Longinus is a Roman centurion haunted by death and failure. Desperate to escape the accursed Judean province, he accepts a wager. If he can catch the thieves harassing the marketplace before Passover, heíll earn a transfer away from the troublemaking Jews.
Nissa is a Jewish woman with a sharp tongue and no hope of marriage. Only with the help of Mouse, the best thief in Jerusalem, can she keep her blind brother, Cedron, fed and a roof over their heads.
When a controversial teacher miraculously heals Cedron, Longinus longs to learn more about the mysterious healer. Instead, his journey leads him to Nissa, whose secret will determine the course of both their futures.
Unexpectedly caught up in the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus, they wonder who this teacher is who heals others but does nothing to save himself. Is the mercy he offers in his teachings real, or just another false promise? Can Nissa and Longinus overcome their pasts to find a future free of their shackles?
Praise for The Thief
“Nissa’s tough demeanor as a cover for her fear and and Longinus’ desire to live a life of peace in his mother’s homeland of Gaul are achingly believable. Both characters are truly lost souls brought together by Jesusí act of mercy. Their discover, through Him, that mercy is the true power that leads to peace is a reassurance Christian readers can appreciate.” -Romantic Times, 4 1/2 stars
“To read The Thief is to be completely transported to another time and place. Landsem’s impeccably researched novel moves at breakneck speed toward a climax that doesn’t disappoint.” -Rebecca Kanner, author of Sinners and the Sea (Rebecca Kanner, author of Sinners and the Sea)
“Powerful and moving, Landsem grabs hold of the soul and never lets go. As compelling a portrait of mercy as I have ever read. Don’t miss this one!” -Siri Mitchell, author of The Messenger (Siri Mitchell, author of The Messenger)
Filled with memorable characters, The Thief is a tale of hopelessness turned to hope, of high stakes made higher, and ultimate love. What happens when a character at the lowest rung of society crosses paths with the most well-known figure in history? The story of The Thief. I couldn’t stop reading. -Tosca Lee, New York Times bestselling author of Iscariot (Tosca Lee, New York Times bestselling author of Iscariot)
ìWOW! LOVE IT!!! I started reading on my way home from a conference and was so engrossed in the book I almost missed the flight! The Thief stole my heart and lifted my spirit. Masterfully told, this story of a Roman centurion and a Jewish girl explores familiar New Testament passages but plumbs new spiritual depths. A powerful message of faith and hope intersecting at the foot of the cross. -Mesu Andrews, author of In a Broken Vessel (Mesu Andrews, author of In a Broken Vessel)
You know the feeling you get looking at a mountain sunset, listening to sacred music while James Earl Jones reads the Sermon on the Mount? The Thief captures that emotion in an unforgettable story of desperation and beauty. -Regina Jennings, author of Caught in the Middle and Sixty Acres and a Bride (Regina Jennings, author of Caught in the Middle and Sixty Acres and a Bride)
A compelling story and vivid characters immediately come off the page and into your heart as Stephanie Landsem brings ancient Jerusalem to life in her enthralling second novel, The Thief. As you run through the streets with the little thief, Mouse, or dip in the Pool of Siloam with the secretive Nissa, a masterful tale full of adventure, heartbreak, and hope unfolds. A must-read for anyone who loves a good book they simply canít put down. -Laura Sobiech, author of Fly a Little Higher (Laura Sobiech, author of Fly a Little Higher)
About the Stephanie
Stephanie writes historical fiction because she loves adventure in far-off times and places. In real life, sheís backpacked through Germany and Eastern Europe, studied in Salzburg, enjoyed gelato in Italy, rode a camel in Morocco, and floated in the salty Corinthian Sea. Her favorite cities are Rome, Berlin and Budapest. Her travels kindle her imagination, fuel her love of history and foreign culture, and introduce her to one-of-a-kind characters.
Stephanie is equally happy at home in Minnesota with her husband of 22 years, four children, three fat cats, and a tortoise named Moe. When she’s not writing, she’s feeding the ravenous horde, volunteering at church and school, battling dandelions, and dreaming about her next adventure – whether it be in person or on the page.
The Thief is an evocative story of two people trapped in their circumstances and the life-changing power of forgiveness and love.
All three books of The Living Water series are based on everyday people encountering Jesus in their own world. In The Thief, I wanted to show a young girl in desperate circumstances whose life was transformed by a chance encounter with the person of Jesus. Although Nissa’s life was dramatically different from our own, but I think we can all relate to her in some way.
The setting of this story are complex, yet you flawlessly transport readers to historical Judea and along the footpaths of Jerusalem. What did your research process look like? How do you strike a balance between giving readers historical context and letting them feel the environment of the characters?
I start each book with weeks—if not months—of solid research. I try to learn as much as I can about how people actually lived, what they ate, their homes and tools and the tasks they did each day. For The Thief I spent a great deal of time studying maps and drawings of the streets of ancient Jerusalem so that I could really put Nissa and Longinus right into the city. When I sit down to write the story, my hope is to write so naturally about the setting and historical context that my readers will forgot they’re reading history and be able to fully immerse themselves in the story.
Did you find difficult to insert the person of Jesus in to a work of fiction?
I’m both nervous and excited when I get to a scene in which Jesus is present. I love imagining what it would be like to actually meet Jesus, but on the other hand, he’s not fictional. He’s a real person and I don’t want to misrepresent him just for the benefit of my story—and I don’t think my readers want that either! So I let myself imagine what he looked like and what he wore, but for dialogue I stick very closely to what is actually recorded in the Bible.
Both Nissa and Longinus are outcasts in their communities, although their alienation manifests differently. Was it intentional for them to share this struggle? Where did their stories come from?
Longinus’ story started in The Well, where he was a Roman legionary bent on avenging his friend’s murder and so his story flowed naturally into the setting of The Thief. Nissa came from questions I had encountered in The Well about women and their limited choices in the time and place of first century Israel. No matter where or when we live, there are hopeless women and girls like Nissa. I wanted to show how a chance encounter with the person of Jesus could change both Nissa’s and Longinus’s lives and give them the peace they both so desperately needed.
What is the message you want readers to take away from you book?
Almost everyone has heard the crucifixion narrative—and for many Christians it is almost too familiar. I wanted to present it in a new way—from the viewpoint of those on the outskirts of society, experiencing the story within the context of their own cultures and perspective. My hope is that my readers—whether Jewish, Christian, or other—will be able to see this pivotal point in our history with new eyes.
Did you always want to write historical/biblical fiction? What about this genre appeals to you most as an author?
When I decided to write historical fiction, biblical wasn’t even on my radar. I spent a year trying out stories—different time periods and settings—before a chance reading of the story of the Samaritan woman at the well sparked my interest. I started wondering, who was this woman? Who was her family? How did she live? That’s when the character of her daughter, Mara, reached out and said, “I want you to tell my story” and The Living Water Series was born.
As I researched and wrote The Well, The Thief, and The Tomb, those questions continued to inspire me. Many women are mentioned in John’s gospel—some very briefly. Who were they? Surely their daily lives were much different from ours, but what about their hopes and dreams? What about their joys? Could they be more like us than we realize? Could they perhaps be looking for what we all want: security and happiness, meaning and hope? I knew it was their stories that I wanted to tell.
What are you working on next?
My next release is the final book in The Living Water series, The Tomb, A Novel of Martha. The Tomb is a surprising story of Martha of Bethany:
Everyone in Bethany admires Martha, the perfect Jewish woman of Proverbs. But Martha harbors a dark secret, one that will shatter her carefully constructed reputation in Bethany and destroy those she loves most. When her brother Lazarus falls ill, Martha must choose between the safety of the tomb she has built for herself, or stepping out to receive ‘the better part’ offered to her by Jesus.