The Housekeepers

Written by Alex Hay
Review by K. M. Sandrick

Only a few weeks after the death of her father, Miss de Vries nonetheless decides to hold an elaborate costume ball in her mansion on Park Lane in London. The objective—to show off her wealth in order to negotiate marriage with a suitable lord and his family. The recently dismissed housekeeper Mrs. King has other plans for the ball: with the help of current and former staff, she will orchestrate a heist that completely cleans out the premises right under the noses of the partygoers.

Hay’s debut novel has all the trappings of a good heist tale—detailed and complicated planning with unexpected obstacles along the way—that keep readers in the thick of it while they wonder: can the thieves really pull this off?

Set in June 1905, the novel also captures the setting and times: the tension between nouveaux riche and landed gentry, the limited opportunities for the working class, particularly women, the machinations of those who operate on the other side of the law. Plotting is fast-paced and gripping, the plan for the heist deliciously elaborate. A few tangential side plots are not particularly necessary and therefore distract. But on the whole, The Housekeepers is a bang-up buster. And a word to the wise lord and lady of the house. As one character notes: “Never underestimate the kitchen girls. They’ve got brains same as anyone. They see everyone coming and going.” Indeed.