Review: The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein


Title: The Pearl Thief

Author: Elizabeth Wein

Purchase: Available May 4th in the UK and May 2nd in the US

Overall rating: 4/5

Great for: Lovers of classic, historical mysteries in the style of Agatha Christie with a young adult twist

Themes: young adult, coming-of-age, thriller, historical fiction

Review: It has been five years since the author, Elizabeth Wein, published her best-selling Code Name Verity series and proved herself as a proficient and poignant author. Already readers are keen to discover more about the unforgettable cast of characters, and Wein has delivered!

Her 2017 release, The Pearl Thief, features the same protagonist as her former duology, Lady Julia Beaufort-Stuart. It can also work as a stand-alone piece, as it details one summer in the character’s life prior to the events detailed in the original series.

Set in 1930s Britain, this focuses on Lady Julia’s return to her grandparents regal home, in the summer of her fifteenth year. However, she isn’t here for a holiday. With the death of her grandfather and the accumulation of a lifetime of debt, the house is to be sold and converted into a school. Julia is to assist her family in organising their ancestral belongings and heirlooms.

Further troubles are heaped on this broken family when Julia is struck by a mysterious assailant, forcing her into a coma and resulting in memory loss. Another household member disappears and all fingers are pointed at the neighbouring tinker family. It is up to Julia to save their reputation and to dispel the community’s hostility to the innocent travellers.

On the brink of womanhood, Julia is a vibrant and sassy character. She represents a modern woman, with her independent nature and penchant for self-sufficiency. The reader can feel nothing but affinity for this character and share in her determination to solve the mysteries plaguing her family.

For it is not just Julia’s story that this book unravels. The focus on ancestry and familial history was fascinating and proved Wein’s stellar power at creating a full and believable history for her stories and her cast.

This story had the feel of another timeless classic, To Kill a Mockingbird. The focus of the plot seemed to be about one thing, but was actually addressing larger social issues in a powerful and positive way. Wein’s upfront and unapologetic writing was sometimes witty and sometimes thrilling, but always raw and poignant. She did not deliver just one story, but a multitude of stories all bundled into one narrative.

This is a fascinating insight into 1930s Britain and furthered her already acclaimed and beloved literary creations. Lady Julia has become one of my favourite heroines and my new favourite detective!

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