Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Thief Taker by Janet Gleeson

The Thief Taker

The Thief Taker
by Janet Gleeson

Trade Paperback: 305 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
First Released: 2004

Source: Bought from

Back Cover Description:
Agnes Meadowes is cook to the Blanchards of Foster Lane, the renowned London silversmiths. Preparing jugged hare, oyster loaves, almond soup, and other delicacies for the family has given her a dependable life for herself and her son. But when the Blanchards' most prestigious commission, a giant silver wine cooler, is stolen and a young apprentice murdered, Theodore Blanchard calls on Agnes to investigate below stairs. Soon she is inside the sordid underworld of London crime, where learning the truth comes at a high price.

This well-written novel is a historical mystery with a great deal of suspense. In fact, it's more of a suspense novel than a 'piece together the clues' puzzle. The world-building was excellent with vivid details that brought the time period to life. Many of the obstacles Agnes faced arose from the constrains of the time period and she very much acted as a woman of her times.

The novel was mainly written from Agnes' viewpoint, but the viewpoint routinely switched through a number of other characters. I generally didn't have trouble keeping track of who was who, though, especially once I'd been reading for a while.

The varied, realistic characters engaged my interest. I enjoyed how there were consequences to a person's actions and how Agnes grew as a person as a result of the circumstances she was forced into. At times I wasn't certain why Agnes acted the way she did, but I was always convinced there was a good reason...though perhaps one she hadn't even admitted to herself.

There was some swearing, though not much. There was one semi-explicit accidental glimpse of sex and several non-explicit sexual encounters between people who weren't married to each other (once by the heroine). The sex was treated fairly realistically--it wasn't treated lightly and it came with emotional and physical consequences. Overall, I'd rate it good, fairly clean fun.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Chapter One
Agnes Meadowes first saw the girl one Monday morning, huddled in a doorway in Foster Lane. She was no more than twelve or thirteen; her feet were bare, and apart from a bright crimson shawl wrapped about her head, her costume was ragged, and colorless with dirt.

But there was nothing remarkable about the sight of a beggar loitering in the streets of London in 1750, and Agnes was preoccupied with more important matters. As cook for the Blanchards of Foster Lane, she was thinking about ragout, and where to find the best angelica for syllabub, and how much the kitchen maid and scullery maid would get done while she was out.

Despite all this, something about the girl, sitting alone surveying the street, struck a chord. The girl was sitting still as stone, her bony knees pressed up to her pinched face, her eyes fixed on the Blanchards' doorway. Her shawl reminded Agnes of the one her husband had given her on their wedding day, and she felt a moment of sympathy, mingled with suspicion.

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