More Than a Thief

Written by Beverly Patt
Review by Peter Clenott

The story of Lizzie Borden and how she went to trial in 1892 for the murder of her parents is well-known. But if you think you know the whole story, you don’t.

In Beverly Patt’s More Than a Thief, readers meet sixteen-year-old Victoria, who is raised in a Fall River, Massachusetts, upper-class family where girls are expected to sew, sing, dance, and be fodder for the wealthy teenage boys of her class. Her parents want nothing more than for her to be selected by a boy of wealth so she can live out her life in elegance and ease.

But Victoria is much more than that. To begin with, she’s a kleptomaniac who cannot stop herself from committing petty thefts. She is also the caretaker for her mother, who suffers from a mysterious paralysis, and the daughter of a selfish thoughtless father. And she’s also the neighbor and friend of Lizzie Borden.

This story belongs to Victoria. In this rebellious and fully drawn character, Patt has given us a young woman we can root for, not only as a would-be detective and a fan of Sherlock Holmes, trying to find out who really killed the Borden mother and father, but as a thief trying to overcome her own sense of guilt and shame. On the way, she falls in love with a young apprentice detective named Declan, whom her parents malign for being Irish and working class.

Patt has perfectly recreated the world of a sixteen-year-old debutante living at the cusp of the modern age. The writing is crisp and humorous and makes you feel the tension of Victoria being found out. Is Lizzie Borden guilty? Will Victoria overcome all to become her own woman? Read on, Mr. Watson.