Friday, 11 September 2015

House of Thieves

Author: Charles Belfoure
Genre: Historical Fiction
Type: e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: SourceBooks
First Published: September 15, 2015
First Line: "It was a perfect day to rob a bank."

Book Description from GoodReadsThe Debt Must Be Repaid — or Else
In 1886 New York, a respectable architect shouldn’t have any connection to the notorious gang of thieves and killers that rules the underbelly of the city. But when John Cross’s son racks up an unfathomable gambling debt to Kent’s Gents, Cross must pay it back himself. All he has to do is use his inside knowledge of high society mansions and museums to craft a robbery even the smartest detectives won’t solve. The take better include some cash too —the bigger the payout, the faster this will be over.
With a newfound talent for sniffing out vulnerable and lucrative targets, Cross becomes invaluable to the gang. But Cross’s entire life has become a balancing act, and it will only take one mistake for it all to come crashing down —and for his family to go down too.
My Review: The premise of an upper class professional suddenly forced to use his knowledge of New York City's elite to work with a crime boss in order to save his son was quite intriguing to me. Belfoure is an architect himself and like his first novel, The Paris Architect (2013), his protagonist in this novel is also an architect.

Belfoure's love of architecture is apparent throughout the book with the descriptions of architectural details of buildings during New York City's Gilded Age.  While they were sprinkled throughout the book they weren't overdone or took over the story and I quite enjoyed getting a view of a much younger New York City.  The reader is also given details about other aspects of life during that time: the Pinkertons, the debut of the Statue of Liberty, the rampant poverty in some areas as well as a look into the lives of New York's upper crust and how blatantly ignorant and bigoted they were to those less fortunate.

I'd have to say that I was surprised that this book was a much lighter historical fiction read than I was expecting.  It was much more in line with Josephine Cox's style of writing and not as captivating as I was hoping especially after reading and enjoying The Paris Architect at the beginning of this year. Don't get me wrong, I have enjoyed many of Cox's books over the years but I was expecting something more from Belfoure.  More history.  More energy, believable characters and a more realistic story line.

The realism is what bothered me the most with this book.  I just couldn't get behind the idea that so many people from this upper crust family suddenly, and independent of each other, decide to leave their comfortable (and yes stifling and restrictive) world to hang out with people much, much lower on the social scale.  We're talking about debutantes enjoying watching rat baiting and a rich kid eagerly learning the art of pick pocketing from a Fagin-type character.  I just couldn't get behind the changes in their characters.  There were too many double lives happening within one family to be believable and the ending was tied up too nicely.

Even though this wasn't my favourite Belfoure novel House of Thieves kept my interest and showed the lengths parents will go to protect their children and I liked it.  This would make a good beach read for fans of lighter historical fiction who enjoy period pieces set during 19th century America.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to SourceBooks and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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