Sue Trinder is an orphan, left as an infant in the care of Mrs. Sucksby, a “baby farmer,” who raised her with unusual tenderness, as if Sue were her own. Mrs. Sucksby’s household, with its fussy babies calmed with doses of gin, also hosts a transient family of petty thieves—fingersmiths—for whom this house in the heart of a mean London slum is home.
One day, the most beloved thief of all arrives—Gentleman, an elegant con man, who carries with him an enticing proposition for Sue: If she wins a position as the maid to Maud Lilly, a naïve gentlewoman, and aids Gentleman in her seduction, then they will all share in Maud’s vast inheritance. Once the inheritance is secured, Maud will be disposed of—passed off as mad, and made to live out the rest of her days in a lunatic asylum.
With dreams of paying back the kindness of her adopted family, Sue agrees to the plan. Once in, however, Sue begins to pity her helpless mark and care for Maud Lilly in unexpected ways…But no one and nothing is as it seems in this Dickensian novel of thrills and reversals.
This story immediately drew me in, the writing style combined with what is being told is just a great blend. I mean the book is about thieves and conspiracies and so much more. There are just so many plot changes throughout the book that you are just waiting for the next curveball to drop in your lap. Because you just know it will come, you just don’t have a clue as to what it will be. But I will admit there was a certain part where my attention was a bit lessened. I can’t pinpoint to why exactly this was, but it did get better in the end.
Sue is a somewhat simple girl who gets roped into this plot to gain a lot of money. And the first part of the book we follow through her eyes which gives a very nice insight to who she is, but more importantly to how she sees the world and the people around her. After a while the perspective changes and it makes you realize how limiting one person’s view can be. I won’t say anything more about this because I don’t want to spoil things at all. I won’t discuss the character relations because I really don’t want to give away too much here, but let me just say that there is a lot of dark stuff going on there.
As historical fiction this book felt very authentic. The large house is owned by rich people yet it isn’t in perfect condition. There was a lot of wear and tear going on which I can only imagine was a very common thing back in those days. There are just so many details which give this story a real Victorian feel to it. As for the story, most of it was truly amazing. The middle part of the story was perhaps a bit too long for me (this was the part where my attention might have been less than stellar). But the beginning was good just like the ending. I can’t comment too much on the writing because I didn’t read this book in the original English but Dutch. I will say that the translation was done very well, especially in terms of maintaining that Victorian feel even in the writing itself (which I hear is also the case in the original English).
In conclusion: this book is definitely something I would recommend to any fan of the Victorian genre, especially if you’re somewhat a lover of the mystery genre. I don’t really consider this a thriller, but perhaps that’s just me.