An Uneven Journey through Seventeenth Century London

The Thief Taker, C. S. Quinn, (Thomas & Mercer), 432 pages

The Thomas and Mercer that publishes The Thief Taker is an imprint of Amazon, which may (or may not) affect your interest in purchasing this book. As Amazon becomes increasingly draconian in its negotiations with major publishing houses, it’s also cutting the publishing houses out of the loop entirely. Normally, I wouldn’t be on the side of big anything—but whatever size a publishing house it, it most assuredly is smaller than Amazon. Had I known this title was an Amazon publication, I probably would have been more hesitant to request a review copy as I’ve been trying to disentangle myself from the empire that is Amazon.


That said, I did request a review copy, and I did read it. The Thief Taker wasn’t quite what I’d hoped, but it did keep me reading through all 400+ pages. The novel is set in 1665, after the restoration of the monarchy in Britain, a time of fierce Protestant-Catholic tensions, of an epidemic of the Black Death, and just months before the great fire of London—which readers know is coming, even if characters in the book don’t.

Given this, I’d been hoping for my favorite kind of historical novel: one deeply imbedded in its time that brings to life the the fierce, brutal wrangling of religious factions and that depicts in detail the now-almost-unimaginable conditions of everyday life of the period.

I got a little bit of this sort of thing—but mostly I much more predictable historical romance with occasional interesting detail thrown in.

The plot is this: a murderous plague doctor stalks London, unidentifiable beneath his protective robes and bird-beaked hood. Maria, the sister of one of his victims hires thief taker Charlie to find the killer. Maria is beautiful, haughty, with airs appropriate to the much-wealthier status her family held before the civil war. Charlie is an orphan left at a foundling home with a mysterious key hung about this neck, a thief-taker with a wide range of lower-class contacts and an eye for ready escape routes. So you know what’s going to happen. There will be bickering and more bickering. There will be assorted types of disdain. There will be repressed longing.

If you enjoy this sort of historical romance, you’ll probably enjoy The Thief Taker. I had hoped for something more and was left feeling only partly satisfied as I finished the book.

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