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Thief, Liar, Gentleman? by Eleanor Updale

Thief, Liar, Gentleman? (2004)

by Eleanor Updale

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For a debut novel, and a YA novel as well, I found this story to be entertaining, and not just because Stephen Fry is the reader for the audiobook I listened to. Updale has captured the key elements of Victorian London, with an interesting glimpse into the lives of both the elite and the poorer, working class. Updale uses to advantage this great divide between rich and poor to get away with his alternating persona - one really never expects to see a gentleman and his servant together except in the sanctity of one's private rooms. I did start to wonder when Updale added espionage to the mix - thieving coupled with gentlemanly pursuits seemed good enough to me - but she does manage to make it work without ruining a perfectly good story. Some of the details get glossed over or missed and the characters are a bit two dimensional but overall, an enjoyable read for readers like me who like a bit of intrigue in a Victorian England setting. Listening to Fry read the story was amusing, especially when he would adopt his 'Jeeves' voice, with that note of disdain.

Overall, a good piece of brain candy that isn't overly taxing. ( )
  lkernagh | Feb 14, 2015 |
He was born in prison and grew up to become a petty thief. In 1875, when he was eventually caught, injured by a fall when on the run, he was sewn back together by a doctor eager to try out his skills and to display them. At seminars where the healed scars were exhibited, the prisoner is able to sit in on lectures about London's new sewer system. Prisoner 493 puts the information to use and plans his future while awaiting release. He used the sewer system - more malodorous than he expected - to gain access to the doctor's house where, among other items, he pinched the necessary clothing to dress like a gentleman. He wrote a letter to a smart hotel announcing that they should provide him with a suite for long term occupation. He was now set to live a double life as Montmorency the master and Scarper the servant. The servant steals from the wealthy and the gentleman is able to sell the pickings to jewelers who assume it is to pay for a gambling debt.

This was a very entertaining tale, and yes, the plot was full of holes, but it worked. The historical aspect of 19th century surgery as well as London's underworld was interesting. I enjoyed it very much. I'm not sure why it has been classified YA, I found it quite acceptable reading.

When I found the book wasn't on the shelf at the library, I borrowed an audiobook read by Stephen Fry which was hilarious in parts. I'm not quite sold on audiobooks, and in the end was able to read the book as well, which served as a comparison. I prefer reading. ( )
  VivienneR | Mar 9, 2014 |
I checked this out because Stephen Fry was the reader. I enjoyed it, but I'm unclear on classification as a young adult book. What message does this send? This is the story of a thief who gets out of jail and continues thieving until he is rich enough to quit. In the process his crimes are attributed to others and he does nothing to correct the problem even when one of his mentors and friends is hanged. I also had problems with the fact that he climbed out of the sewer to go into wealthy homes to steal and seemed to leave no tracks or smell in his wake. The reader saved it. I'm not sure I would have finished a print book of this title. ( )
  njcur | Feb 13, 2014 |
The story begins with Montmorency in jail for a burglary that went wrong. He spends his jail time thinking up new money-making schemes, and eventually plans an elaborate double life for himself. As soon as he is released from prison he puts his new plan into action. He uses the sewers of London to make his way to and from burglaries at expensive properties. With the money he raises from the burglaries he funds his second identity as a gentleman who enjoys the finer things in life.

I really loved this story, mainly because I love reading about Victorian London. The author has done a great job of bringing Victorian London to life in this book. I really felt like I was right there in the middle of everything.

Montmorency was a bit of an unusual character, because of his double identity. I wasn't sure whether to love him, hate him, or both!

Really enjoyed this book and I hope to read the rest of the series too. ( )
  26kathryn | Jul 17, 2013 |
Fascinating plot, but not enough life breathed into it. ( )
  rin.wilson | Apr 20, 2013 |
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To Jim, Andrew, Catherine and Flora - Montmorancy's oldest friends
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The pain woke him again.
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Book description
Haiku summary
A thief steals some clothes
and lives like a gentleman
after some jail time. (marcusbrutus)

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0439580366, Paperback)

Montmorency: thief, liar, gentleman?, a British import from debut author Eleanor Updale, is a smart, stylish antidote to the proliferation of Buffy novelizations masquerading as mysteries these days. In a London cellblock in 1875, career criminal Montmorency is serving time for burglary. Captured while fleeing police, Montmorency suffered several grievous wounds that attract the attention of a brilliant young doctor named Robert Farcett. When Dr. Farcett displays Montmorency's newly healed body before the membership of London's Scientific Society, Montmorency overhears a presentation on the city's new sewer system that will change his life forever. Once released from prison, Montmorency uses his knowledge of the underground tunnels to steal from some of London's wealthiest neighborhoods. But in order to enjoy his new riches, he must assume a dual lifestyle. By day he is Mr. Montmorency, a mysterious opera going gentleman who resides in one of the city's most affluent hotels. By night, he is drain-dwelling Scarper, a smelly character who keeps a room in a dirty boarding house. How long can he keep up this agonizing pretense before someone, perhaps even the good doctor, recognizes his scars and exposes him as a fraud?

Middle school fans of John Bellairs, Lemony Snicket, and Philip Pullman, will delight in plowing through the cliff hanging pages of Montmorency. Updale's prose is clear and plot-driven, full of the kind of fascinating detail about the quirky Victorian thief's dual existence that young mystery readers adore. And, with a sequel coming in 2005, they won't groan too loudly at the wide open, although wholly satisfying ending. (Ages 10 to 14) --Jennifer Hubert

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:21 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

In Victorian London, after his life is saved by a young physician, a thief utilizes the knowledge he gains in prison and from the scientific lectures he attends as the physician's case study exhibit to create a new, highly successful, double life for himself.… (more)

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