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The Thief Taker: A Novel [Paperback]

Janet Gleeson

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Book Description

Sept. 1 2006
In the cellar there was no sound at all except her own breathing and the soft rustle of her skirts. After her eyes had grown accustomed to the dark, she noticed a niche in the wall a yard from where she stood. She saw something there about the size of her fist. Agnes quietly picked it up. It was wrapped in a cloth and surprisingly heavy. . . a pistol, the hilt filthy with mud and dirt. Suddenly she heard the chinking sound of glasses nearby. There was no mistaking the voices now. Before she had time to call out, another door creaked open and the pair emerged from the darkness.

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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (Sept. 1 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780743290180
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743290180
  • ASIN: 0743290186
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 14 x 1.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,023,212 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Following the cabinetmakers of The Grenadillo Box (2004) and the portraitists of The Serpent in the Garden (2005), Gleeson hangs her solid third historical on another group of artisans—a family of silversmiths, the Blanchards, who have fallen on uncertain times in 18th-century London. When an apprentice is murdered, the kitchen maid vanishes and the business's most valuable commission—a huge wine cooler—is stolen, the Blanchards' cook, Agnes Meadowes, becomes the improbable prime sleuth. Meadowes first negotiates with the corrupt character of the novel's title, who's suspected of engineering the crime to profit from recovering the stolen item. She takes a more active role after she begins to suspect an accomplice inside the Blanchard household. Meadowes's eventual success owes more to bravery and doggedness than actual deduction, making her a less interesting sleuth than her fictional peers in the late Bruce Alexander's Sir John Fielding mystery series, also set in Georgian England. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gleeson's latest unconventional eighteenth-century sleuth is Agnes Meadowes, stalwart widowed cook to the Blanchards of Foster Lane. Picking up on the artisan themes she mined for period detail in The Grenadillo Box (2003) and The Serpent in the Garden (2005), the Blanchards are a family of renowned silversmiths. When an apprentice is murdered, the kitchen maid disappears, and a valuable silver wine cooler is stolen, patriarch Richard Blanchard turns to Agnes for assistance. Agnes quickly negotiates with a local "thief taker" to recover the wine cooler, but her mission becomes more dangerous when Rose's lifeless body is discovered. As the murder investigation twists and turns, Gleeson, a former Sotheby's agent, immerses readers in both the cuisine and craftsmanship of the era. Suspense and historical detail are artfully interwoven into another historical whodunit. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is really great. Aug. 20 2006
By Kimberley Wilson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Janet Gleeson has created a fascinating character in Agnes Meadows, a cook and a highly intelligent and brave sleuth who just wants to make a decent life for herself and her son. A wine cooler has been stolen from the home of her employers, silversmiths who face professional ruin if the piece is not recovered, an apprentice is dead and a housemaid, who turns out to be quite a bit more interesting that anyone ever guessed has vanished. Agnes has to solve a crime, keep her employers and friends out of trouble and keep herself alive.

I enjoyed reading about life in the kitchen and "seeing" the world through Agnes's eyes as she learns things about herself and the shocking way her world really works. The book is historically accurate, nobody is a 21rst century character in fancy dress. Gleeson doesn't try to pretty up Georgian London and while there are no gross sex or violence scenes she doesn't sugar coat life in that period either. I found this to be very satisfying and I hope Gleeson comes back to this character in a sequel.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Mystery to Make Your Mouth Water! Sept. 24 2006
By Maria Alexander - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Janet Gleeson has not only created a very clever murder mystery, but she's also researched this tale right down to the soup bones. Her main character, Agnes Meadows, is the chief cook in an 18th century home of renown London silversmiths. Gleeson's delectable descriptions of period dishes combined with the tasty tidbits of 18th century English life bring this mystery to a perfect boil. I'm dead envious of her ability to so naturally weave together the historical facts with such well-drawn characters. I can't wait to read another of her books!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating mystery! March 17 2009
By myz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I really liked this novel, the story was well thought out and neatly planned. The historical detail was obviously well researched, and altogether it made for a very interesting book. The only tiny complaint I have is that I found none of the characters very interesting. The story was interesting, but the characters all seemed a little bland, and I didn't feel very sympathetic towards most of them. But, nonetheless, it was a good historical mystery.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A well-done historical mystery Dec 28 2007
By Ellis Bell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The Thief Taker is an interesting historical mystery. Set in London in 1750, the book is the story of Agnes Meadowes, cook to the Blanchards, a family of silversmiths in Foster Lane. One evening, an expensive wine cooler goes missing and an apprentice ends up with his throat slit. It's clear that the crimes were committed by someone in the household, or someone connected with it. Agnes is asked to act as a liaison between the family and a dangerous thief taker named Marcus Pitt. Soon, two more people end up dead, including a thief and an unlucky maid in the Blanchard's household. Agnes finds herself pitted against some very dangerous and unsavory characters, and its up to her to find the cooler and discover who committed the murders.

In all, I thought that this book was highly suspenseful and not at all what one might expect from historical fiction. Gleeson write about characters from the past without making them seem as though they're modern or have modern thought processes. That's not to say that Gleeson's writing style is dense or complicated; rather, it's a fast-paced read. However, there was one thing about this novel that I didn't like; the identity of the murderer came out of left field and I thought that the murderer's death happened almost too quickly. It's like Janet Gleeson didn't want to write about that kind of unpleasant thing, but for the sake of the story had to, so she rushed through it as much as possible.

Although I've read a lot of historical fiction, and a lot of mysteries, I still found myself hooked by the premise, not to mention the plot, of The Thief Taker.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars delightful historical whodunit Sept. 10 2006
By Harriet Klausner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In the middle of the eighteenth century in London, Widow Agnes Meadowes, mother of a child, cooks for the highly regarded silversmiths, the Blanchards. However, she becomes a bit disturbed when the Blanchards think nothing of kitchen maid Rose vanishing; she becomes outraged and disturbed when Rose's peers ignore her disappearance. Unable to let it go and with no one to turn to for help, Agnes decides to investigate.

However, her inquiries are on hold when her employers ask for her intervention in a matter. Someone stole a valuable wine cooler just before delivery, killing the apprentice watching it. Agnes negotiates on behalf of the Blanchards with legendary Marcus Pitt to have him retrieve the wine cooler that if not delivered means ruin in return for melted silver. Apprentice Thomas Williams escorts Agnes, who finds her protector kindhearted unlike her abusive late spouse. As she continues to cope with Pitt who wants her thrown into the deal, Agnes continues to search for Rose until her slashed corpse is found. Told to cooperate with Pitt and to drop the Rose matter, Agnes ignores her employer even as her son is abducted and her position as cook is jeopardized.

Janet Gleeson uses a deep look at the mid 1700s English lifestyles of the working and artisan classes as a powerful background to a fine amateur sleuth investigation starring an ethical protagonist. Obstinate Agnes learns a lesson about the dangers of good intentions, as she feels she must uncover the truth about Rose. The story line cleverly blends silversmithing and murder to cook up a delicious historical whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

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