“After all, gangland was a man’s world.
That’s what they thought.
But us women, well, we knew different.
This is our story.”

Oh, what promise the prologue to Beezy Marsh’s Queen of Thieves (William Morrow 2022 – Originally published in Britain by Orion Dash 2021) held.  Oh, what a roaring disappointment.

The premise is great.  Inspired by a real life gang of women who ruled London after WWII, Queen of Thieves follows Alice, the leader of this all-female gang, and Nell, a young woman who joins the Forty Thieves after she finds herself unmarried and pregnant.  The novel alternates POV between Alice and Nell, with the meat of the story taking play June 1946 – March 1947.

Led by Alice, the group of girls steal from upscale department stores.  It’s a pretty detailed operation with multiple moving pieces, and a necessary loyalty built in.  The loyalty is due in part to fear – Alice has no qualms about carving a person’s skin up with her razor, lovingly named Ms. Tibbs.  When Alice sees Nell, she sees the possibilities.  Nell looks innocent and is clearly pregnant.  The department stores and cops were making the life of crime a bit more difficult, and someone like Nell would bring new opportunities.  The idea of money that could support her and her unborn child is appealing to Nell, and she gets a thrill from stealing.  She joins the Forty Thieves.

I wanted to love this novel.  I really did.  I think not focusing on Alice and her brother was a misstep, because there is a better story there.  I also think it could have used a content editor.  The writing is sloppy, and the characters are poorly defined, inconsistent, and often little more than caricatures.  (I couldn’t help but picture Daniel Day Lewis for Gangs of New York as Alice. haha)_The timeline is entirely unrealistic and clearly in error.

Nell is two months pregnant in June.  In June, she is sentenced and begins serving six months in jail.  She indicates that she is due at Christmas.  That tracks, the baby should be born about the time she is released.  She goes into labor in November.  She has the baby in February, while she is still in jail.  So, her six-month sentence became eight, and she was in labor from November to February.  In the month of February, she has a child, keeps the child with her for two weeks, gives the child up, and is released from prison two weeks later.  It is still February.  Still in shortest month of the year, she rejoins the Forty Thieves and gets sent on a job to Soho, where she auditions for a spot at a club and starts working.  It is still February.  She has sex in March twice and gets pregnant.  Again.  That baby is born in the Epilogue “just in time for Christmas 1947.”

Things like this are even more frustrating when there’s a good premise behind the book.  London’s gang of all women deserved so much better.

There is a published sequel; however, I will not be reading it.

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