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Queen of Thieves by Beezy Marsh

Historical fiction

Queen of Thieves

by Beezy Marsh

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Quick Take

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

  • Illustrated icon, Multiple_Viewpoints

    Multiple viewpoints

  • Illustrated icon, Feminist

    Feminist

  • Illustrated icon, Action_packed

    Action-packed

  • Illustrated icon, Real_life_characters

    Real-life characters

Synopsis

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?

Content warning

This book contains scenes that depict sexual assault.

Why I love it

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.

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Historical fiction
View all
Lady Tan’s Circle of Women
The Women
The Ballad of Jacquotte Delahaye
The Briar Club
Miss Morgan’s Book Brigade
Spitting Gold
The Great Divide
The Storm We Made
The Disappearance of Astrid Bricard
What We Kept to Ourselves
The River We Remember
The House Is On Fire
Magic Lessons
The People We Keep
The Attic Child
Hester
The Final Revival of Opal & Nev
The Nightingale
The Secret Book of Flora Lea
Did You Hear About Kitty Karr?
Peach Blossom Spring
Hang the Moon
Sisters in Arms
The Postmistress of Paris
Summer of '69
All the Light We Cannot See
The Four Winds
Independence
The Library of Legends
The Night Tiger
Queen of Thieves
Pachinko
The Glittering Hour
The Summer Wives
The Great Alone
The Age of Light
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
The Paris Hours
The Golden Hour
Manhattan Beach
The Wonder
The Japanese Lover
The Witches
Saint Mazie
The Marriage of Opposites
Church of Marvels
The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock
Jacqueline in Paris
Don't Cry for Me
The Christie Affair
Bloomsbury Girls
Bronze Drum