The Housekeepers

Written by Alex Hay
Review by Edward James

This book might have been more appropriately titled “The Housekeepers’ Revenge.”  It is an historical fantasy, in the sense that the servant classes of the Edwardian ‘big houses’ must sometimes have fantasised that they had stripped the house of all its finery and made off to enjoy free and independent lives.

Not that housekeepers were menial servants; they headed the female staff in a large establishment. The two housekeepers in this book, Winnie Smith and Dinah King, successively serve in the super-opulent Park Lane town house of the de Vries family, diamond millionaires.  They can live out their fantasy because Dinah has contacts in the London underworld and could raise the money and hire the muscle to strip the mansion on the night of a grand ball, using smoke machines to drive the guests into the park to continue their revelries while the robbers complete the heist.

The story is basically a ridiculous comedy, with a larger-than-life gang of loveable rogues (all female) carrying out an impudent and daring robbery.  Of course, it does not go completely to plan and the house yields unexpected secrets. This is an excellent read, and the dialogue is sharp and witty, with layers of meaning, both in what is said and what is unsaid.  Not to be taken seriously, but seriously good.