The Thief Taker

Written by Janet Gleeson
Review by Alan Cassady-Bishop

After the death of her husband, Agnes Meadowes obtains employment as a cook. Working in London for the Blanchards, a family of once prosperous silversmiths, Agnes struggles to support her son. Next door, at the silversmith shop, an apprentice is murdered and an expensive wine cooler stolen. The loss of the wine cooler, meant for a wealthy client, could mean disaster for the Blanchards and the end of Agnes’s service. When a kitchen maid also disappears, Mrs. Blanchard asks Agnes to discover what happened to the girl, who’s suspected of being part of the theft. Then Mr. Blanchard requests that Agnes contact a local thief taker to ascertain the whereabouts of his wine cooler. The unscrupulous thief taker promises to locate the item after being charmed by Agnes, but he has more sinister plans in store for her. Agnes becomes embroiled in two additional murders that involve someone in the Blanchard’s household. When she continues to investigate, her son is kidnapped and now she must save the boy.

The atmosphere of mid-18th century London is sharp and the cooking fascinating. But in this often convoluted story, I found many of Agnes’s actions unbelievable, given her background.