Post-WWII-London might look like a boys club but in reality, a shadowy gang of female thieves runs these mean streets.
Good to know
London, 1946.The city struggles to rebuild itself after the devastation of the Blitz. Food is rationed, good jobs are scarce, and even the most honest families are forced to take a bit of “crooked” just to survive.
Alice Diamond, the Queen of Thieves, rules over her all-female gang with a bejeweled fist. Her “hoisters” are expert shoplifters, the scourge of London’s upscale boutiques and department stores. Their lucrative business stealing and fencing luxury goods always carries the threat of violence; Alice packs a razor, and has been known to use her heavy rows of diamond rings like brass knuckles.
Young Nell is a teenager from the slums, hiding a secret pregnancy and facing a desperately uncertain future when Alice takes her under her wing. Before long, Nell is experiencing all the dangers—and glamourous trappings—that comes with this underworld existence. Alice wants Nell to be a useful weapon in her ongoing war against crime boss Billy Sullivan’s gang of rival thieves. But Nell has a hidden agenda of her own, and is not to be underestimated. The more she is manipulated by both Alice and Billy, the more her hunger for revenge grows.
As Nell embraces the rich spoils of crime and the seedy underbelly of London, will she manage to carve out her own path to power and riches? Might she even crown herself the Queen of Thieves?
Why I love it
BOTM Editorial Team
I love a morally dubious heroine, even more so when she delights in her rule-breaking. So I was thrilled to stumble upon Alice, a resourceful and commanding gang leader who is the beating heart of this wonderful historical novel.
The year is 1946. London has just been decimated and is still reeling from The Blitz. Most families can barely put food on the table, but Alice—the titular Queen of Thieves—has gamed the system with a practiced sleight of hand and a keen eye for new bandits. Enter Nell, a down-on-her-luck teenager who’s found herself pregnant, alone, and in dire need of guidance. Alice quickly identifies her as a malleable heist partner and ushers Nell into her crew of women thieves. But as tensions rise between Alice’s group and a rival gang, so too does the burgeoning power struggle between the queen and an unexpectedly slick Nell, desperate for revenge and out for blood.
This book has a page-turning plot and paints an immersive portrait of postwar London’s darker corners and back alleys, but what I loved most were the unique and memorable characters. Alice especially has such a distinct, hypnotic voice: rough-and-tumble, straightforward, with a bit of a Cockney lilt. And I can’t imagine anything more badass than punching someone out with fingers full of sharp diamond rings—what a signature move! This combination of guts and glamor is what makes Queen of Thieves such a deliciously unputdownable novel for the underlying rebel in all of us.