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I steeled myself to listen to Elizabeth Wein’s “The Pearl Thief” (2017), a prequel to “Code Name Verity” (2012) and “Rose Under Fire” (2013). Verity was a stunning book and a chilling listen, five stars all around. Rose wasn’t quite the book that Verity was and I really did not care for the narration. “The Pearl Thief” is a redemptive Audible performance, and a satisfying back story.
Lady Julia Lindsay MacKenzie Wallace Beaufort-Stewart is Julie in “The Pearl Thief” and Verity in “Code Name Verity.” “The Pearl Thief” is set in Scotland, after cars and cigarettes, but before World War II tore the world apart, taking Verity, Maddie, and Rose into the dark heart of Europe. Julie at 15 is daring and worldly, the beloved granddaughter of an Earl, and a descendent of Mary Stewart. The descriptions of the castle keep and the rivers are detailed. I could see the estate’s library in my mind.
There’s a lively, old fashioned mystery that starts almost immediately. Some of Wein’s books take a while to get going, but “The Pearl Thief” doesn’t make that mistake. There are wrong assumptions, romances, arrests and red herrings. It makes for a satisfying listen and an intriguing ‘who done it’.
The listen reminds me of the summer I was 14, when I devoured as much as I could of Eleanor Alice Buford Hibbert’s historical fiction. Hibbert? Well, her pen names included Victoria Holt, Philippa Carr, and my personal favorite, Jean Plaidy. Hibbert used Plaidy as a nom de plume for fictionalized novels of royalty, castles, intrigue and mystery. Wein’s books are more finally crafted.
Wein’s writing for young adults, a genre that Judy Blume seems to have started with “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret?” (1970). I’m old enough to remember that some of my friend’s mothers confiscated the paperback copies. The story and the ending of “The Pearl Thief” are not as intense and shocking as Verity and Rose – and, quite frankly, I was relieved. I’ve never quite gotten over Verity’s finale. This is for older folks like me wondering about age appropriateness: “The Pearl Thief” is going to be an acceptable read/listen for younger readers in a way that Blume’s Margaret was not for more naive ears 40 years ago.
I liked Maggie Service as a narrator – and as always with Wein’s books, I enjoyed learning some UK English.
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245 of 255 people found this review helpful
Would you consider the audio edition of The Pearl Thief to be better than the print version?
I haven't read the print version.
What did you like best about this story?
I liked the characters! They were well-defined. I could picture them vividly.
Have you listened to any of Maggie Service’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
Yes. They have all been very good.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
I don't think I have ever listened to a book in ONE sitting. I did finish it quickly enough. It held my interest.
Any additional comments?
I listened because it was supposed to be a prequel for Code Name Verity -- a great book. This book was supposed to be the protagonist of the latter book as a younger girl. I quickly forgot of any connection to Verity because the book stood on its own. While a "young adult" book, I, an old adult, enjoyed it. It was a welcome break from violence and crude language. A lovely period piece.
20 of 21 people found this review helpful