A daring heist! Revenge of the housekeepers! Deception and deceit in fancy dresses! This book was a lot of fun, and impressively well written for a debut.
It's 1905 and Mrs. King works in the prestigious (but "new rich") De Vries household in London - the grandest house on the street, with floor after floor of ostentatious grandeur. The home was owned by the now-deceased Mr. Wilhelm De Vries, who made his money in smart investments overseas, and returned to England a new man. He shared the house with his daughter, Miss De Vries (I'm not sure if we ever learn her name? If so it isn't used much.), the mother having passed away years ago. Soon after his passing, Mrs. King is unceremoniously dismissed from her position by the uncitous butler, Mr. Shepard. Her cool and collected demeanor as she is dismissed make it clear that she has plans...
Mrs. King rounds up a motley crew of women, all of whom have a score to settle with the House De Vries, for one reason or another. She begins moving the chessboard pieces around to set up her grand heist - to rob the house of every single item of value, all while Miss De Vries hosts a magnificent gala (in her ambitious quest to find a husband).
The main players besides Mrs. King are:
Mrs. Bone, crime boss extraordinairre, and the money behind the operation
Winnie, another former De Vries housekeeper and Mrs. King's confidante
Alice, a mouse-like sewing maid who struggles with her conscience (and a secret)
"The Janes," two shrewd and resourceful women in Mrs. Bone's employ
Hephzibah Grandcourt, former maid, and flamboyant aspiring actress
Of course as we watch the plan unfold there are surprises and twists, connections between characters that we didn't expect, and a small dose of fantastical coincidence that allows things to proceed - but all for the good of the story-telling!
I think there were a few too many moving parts at times, and I would have loved a diagram of the house and the location of certain hesity contraptions used in the robbery to better understand the layout. But overall it was a great story, in line with something like the Oceans movies. In fact, I found myself thinking what a great movie this book would make... maybe even better (dare I say it?!) than the book, because it might cut away some of the excess to focus on the plotting, planning, and execution of the entertaining heist.
UP NEXT: The Fragile Threads of Power, by V.E. Schwab