Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Publisher: Bantam Press (Transworld UK)
Release Date: September 2, 2004
ISBN: 0593052609
Format Reviewed: Hardback
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Genre:   Historical Crime [1750, London
Reviewed: 2004
Reviewer: Rachel A Hyde
Reviewer Notes:  

The Thief Taker
By Janet Gleeson

      Janet Gleeson has made quite a name for herself with her meticulously crafted mysteries set during the 18th century. Following on from The Grenadillo Box and The Serpent in the Garden (also reviewed on this site) is this tale of below stairs life. Agnes Meadowes leads a quiet life doing the job she loves "cooking " for silversmithing family the Blanchards. But one night an apprentice is murdered, a maid goes missing, and so does her employers' largest ever commission. Theodore Blanchard is convinced that Agnes is the only one from his household who can help him solve the crime and save the family from the debtors' jail. So she is introduced to the dark demimonde of notorious thief taker Marcus Pitt, and set on a trail that could well be the last thing she does.

      Mid 18th century London comes to life in this tale, and if you have ever wondered what it might have been like to be below stairs in those days then this book will give you a good idea. More than just a mere crime novel this is also a story about the injustice of the master-servant relationship, for Agnes is seen by her employers as a game piece to be moved across a board of their devising. I found myself enjoying this book more for the minutiae of life in the Blanchard household than its mystery plot, which lacks some of the verve and suspense of the two previous novels. The author has got under the skin of the period though, and this is another book that won't just be read by historical crime aficionados but will appeal to anybody who likes a good, well researched story. Agnes is a wonderfully real-seeming protagonist who tackles the problems that beset her with a straightforward fortitude and good sense that is perfectly in keeping with the period. Easy to read, absorbing, and full of human interest.