It is 1888, and Grace Hammer is a thief, living in London’s Whitechapel. The area is a hotbed for squalor and criminal activity, and is populated with all kinds of unseemly characters (including a serial murder called Jack the Ripper). Grace lives here with her four children, making a decent (but not honest) living picking pockets. In the countryside, a man named Horatio Blunt sits, waiting for the perfect moment to enact his revenge on the woman who stole something valuable from him many years previously.
I loved the premise of the novel, and I enjoyed the setting. Victorian England is one of the time periods I enjoy reading about, in fiction and nonfiction, and I was looking forward to settling down with a good, creepy read. Grace is a plucky heroine, smart and resourceful, and the plot is, indeed, creepy indeed at times. But the plot also has some major holes in it. For example, if Grace knew she was wanted for theft, then why didn’t she take an assumed name when she moved to London? For someone who was apparently such a great thief, she didn’t cover her tracks very well. Why did Horatio Blunt wait seventeen years to get revenge on Grace? And the ending was anticlimactic, with everything neatly wrapped and tied with a bow. The writing style is a little uneven, too. The first twenty pages or so are written in the present tense, but then the rest of the book is written in past tense. It’s almost as though the author changed her mind partway in.
But really, I thought that the characters were the best part of this novel. Grace is, as I’ve said, a plucky woman, one that the reader really roots for as she tries to beat Horatio Blunt at his own game. Some of her other characters truly gave me the creeps while reading this book. I just wish the plot lived up to the promise.