The Art of Theft by Sherry Thomas
As “Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective,” Charlotte Holmes has solved murders and found missing individuals. But she has never stolen a priceless artwork—or rather, made away with the secrets hidden behind a much-coveted canvas.
But Mrs. Watson is desperate to help her old friend recover those secrets and Charlotte finds herself involved in a fever-paced scheme to infiltrate a glamorous Yuletide ball where the painting is one handshake away from being sold and the secrets a bare breath from exposure.
Her dear friend Lord Ingram, her sister Livia, Livia’s admirer Stephen Marbleton—everyone pitches in to help and everyone has a grand time. But nothing about this adventure is what it seems and disaster is biding time on the grounds of a glittering French chateau, waiting only for Charlotte to make a single mistake…
There are few things you can count on in life. For me, one of those things is this series. I know that whenever I pick up the latest release in it, I’m in for a five-star worthy read.
This installment only serves to reinforce this as my favorite ongoing series. If you’re worried that this makes me a biased reader, fear not. Kate Daniels is another of my favorite series, and I one-starred one of the books in it. Because WTF, Curran?
In The Art of Theft, Sherry Thomas takes all the characters we’ve grown to know and love and places them in immense danger. One of the chief complaints from other readers of this series is that it’s “too slow”. Which, fine, I get that. In this day and age of 80k books with zero downtime, I can understand why a book with longer sentences and a sharper focus on the minutiae of the time period it’s set in might seem a little long-winded.
Not so much with this installment. Thomas has already set the scene for us. The past worldbuilding is expansive. Now, she sheds some of the scenes others thought extraneous and gets down to the fine art of terrifying her devoted readers.
Seriously. Sherry, you trying to kill me?
There were scenes in this that were nothing short of hair-raising. The danger to these characters I’ve grown so fond of was palpable throughout.
By now you’re probably wondering about the plot, and while I can’t get into too much because of the spoilers for the rest of the series, I can instead give you an overview.
Here is the summary of our task:
A blackmailed Maharani. Letters hidden in the back of a priceless Van Gogh. A breathless race across the continent. An ominous mansion rumored to contain a den unspoken sins. And, at the very heart of everything, their greatest enemy lurks, unseen.
Aaaaaand that’s about all I can tell you.
One of the things I love most about this series is that I never really know what the hell is going on. Oh, I think I do. But Thomas’ plots are like onions. They are so layered that by the time you get ‘to the bottom of it’ you realize that everyone is in way over their heads and no one remembered to pack the life raft.
Paired with this masterful plotting is a cast of characters that only grows more diverse and nuanced with each installment. This is my very favorite kind of retelling. One that expands upon the foundation of the original tales. Adds more depth. Makes it feminist.
The thing about most historical romances that I have trouble stomaching these days is that a lot of the authors in the genre skip over the more troubling aspects of the time periods they set their books in. They don’t talk about slavery. Or the fact that women were basically treated as chattel.
And while this series is definitely more in the realm of historical fiction, there are several central romances unfolding within it. Sherry Thomas looks a lot of the truths I just mentioned in the eye and writes about them in a way that is still (sadly) so relevant today.
…fundamentally, this is about the imbalance of power between the sexes. As long as women’s primary access to power is via access to men, and as long as men value women primarily as either carriers of their bloodline or vessels for their carnal desires, both men and women will be commenting on women’s youth and beauty – or lack thereof – ad naseum, the former group as they would appraise any other interchangeable commodity, and the latter as assessment of competitive advantages and disadvantages.
So, again, I cannot recommend this series enough for anyone with a longer attention span who loves a well-researched, well-written retelling.
And now my long wait begins for the next installment.