Sunday, March 20, 2016

House of Thieves, by Charles Belfoure

12/100 This is a repeat author - Charles Belfoure, who wrote "The Paris Architect" that I liked so much. The book I finished today was "House of Thieves". As with the previous book I wrote about, the main character is an architect, but the story is set in New York of the late 1880s (well allright, 1886, to be precise). The architect is John Cross, who belongs to the rich and privileged section of society.

All seems well in his life, until his son George racks up a huge debt because of his uncontrolled - and uncontrollable - gambling addiction. The notorious gang to whom George owes the money is Kent's Gents. Kent meets John Cross and tells him that if he doesn't help pay off his son's debt (by helping Kent's Gents to rob the mansions of the rich), his son would die. Not having any choice, he starts helping the gang and, quite quickly, due to his connections in high society and the fact that he can get the building plans for the mansions, he becomes invaluable to Kent in planning and executing the robberies.

 Meanwhile, his daughter Julia, an aspiring Dickensian-style novelist, gets friendly with a handsome pickpocket and starts to explore the seamy underbelly of New York. Even his youngest son, 10-year-old Charlie, acquires a secret life in low society, making friends with an older newsboy who saves him from being robbed by a couple of young street thugs. All this takes place without his knowledge. 

Then John Cross is forced to confess his involvement with Kent's Gents to his wife, Helen, a beautiful society butterfly. Oddly enough, this confession results in a new lease of life for their marriage, because Helen, to his surprise, enthusiastically helps him by getting him information on which of their wealthy friends and acquaintances to rob next. However, there is a tragedy waiting to happen... which I will let you discover on your own.

 While I did enjoy this book, I thought "The Paris Architect" was the better read. I will be trying out a couple more books by Charles Belfoure to give myself a chance to make up my mind about whether it was a one-off good'un or if there are others I will like as much or more.


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