Thus begins a story which is part murder mystery and part coming-of-age tale. Julie and her brother Jamie meet and befriend the twins, Travellers who saved her life, Ellen and Euan. They all work to prove to the police that the twins did not murder the archivist and attempt to murder Julie. In the process they uncover a mystery which involves river pearls from the Earl's estate, pearls which can be traced back to Mary Queen of Scots.
In case you think you recognize the name Julie Beaufort-Stuart, if you read Code Name Verity, a Printz Honor book published in 2012, she was the protagonist of that book who was working as a British spy and was captured by the Nazis. The Pearl Thief is considered a prequel of Code Name Verity, but it very easily reads as a stand alone, though we do see the beginnings of Julie's skills as a first rate snoop and the makings of a spy. It is a very different book from CNV, in a lot of ways I liked it better, and that is saying a lot. In The Pearl Thief we meet a girl who is just coming into her own. She is trying to figure out issues related to friendship and prejudice, class and privilege, sexuality and manipulation. In a lot of ways Julie is an unreliable narrator but as she learns things, we do too. I loved her voice and seeing things through her eyes. The climax, which comes very late in the story, was a shocker to me, one I didn't see coming at all. Amal El-Mohtar, writing a review of PT for NPR said this about the two books, "It's an enormously different book from Code Name Verity — but across time, space, and genres, they slip off their gloves and hold hands." Isn't that a lovely description?
In the notes at the end of the book, Elizabeth Wein explains the research she conducted for this book centering on two unknown issues to me: the lives of Travellers (gypsies) and the difficulties that have befallen them since modern technology has altered the way people live today; and the plight of the river mussels, the makers of the beautiful river pearls. Pollution and population growth have led to a situation most dire and now the few remaining mussels are protected against harvesting and it is illegal to sell the pearls, even ones that have been in families for years. I enjoy learning something new when I read a book and The Pearl Thief sure fit that bill. Plus, and this is always a bonus for me, the book was filled with poetry, especially poems by the famous Scots poet, Robert Burns. Loved it!
Book Beginnings quote:
'You're a brave lassie.' That was what my grandfather told me as he gave me his shotgun.Friday 56 quote:
And then among the piles of paper on the desk I was startled to see something I recognized.Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City Reader. Share the opening quote from the book.The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Find a quote from page 56.
Rating: 4.5 stars
Challenge: Read Books from Your TBR pile, Sept. 11-24.
Mock Printz recommendation: Yes