Sunday, December 4, 2005

Montmorency: Thief, Liar, Gentleman?

Updale, Eleanor. 2004. MONTMORENCY: THIEF, LIAR, GENTLEMAN? New York: Orchard. ISBN 0439580358 [Suggested Grade Levels 6-8]

During his arrest, petty thief Montmorency is critically injured in a fall. A dedicated doctor makes his career by saving Montmorency’s life, then displaying him at medical conferences. At once such conference, Montmorency learns of the new sewer system that has just been completed in London and he soon develops a plan. Once he is released from prison, he begins to use the tunnels to enter posh London neighborhoods, rob the houses, then mysteriously vanish. The police are baffled. Montmorency then decides to create for himself two personas – the rich, sophisticated Montmorency and the crude but cunning burglar, Scarper. As time goes on, Montmorency finds living two separate lives increasingly difficult. Who is he really? When an acquaintance asks Montmorency to break into the Mauramanian embassy to find out if they are about to declare war, Montmorency must make a decision. Is he a thief and a liar? Or is he now a gentleman?

Although not about teens, this is an intriguing story of a man willing to go to great lengths to get what he wants. Montmorency is an interesting and complex character. Even he does not always know who he is. When he thinks he might be discovered, both Scarper and Montmorency have ideas: “Scarper had briefly toyed with the notion of putting a permanent end to the risk by killing Mr. Rigby, but back in the Marimion, Montmorency knew that such behavior was out of the question and he despised Scarper for even entertaining the idea.” Updale does an excellent job of portraying each of Montmorency’s different lives and the length to which he goes to maintain them. The plot moves quickly with many near-misses which maintain the tension. A fascinating story of intrigue, adventure, and survival in Victorian England.

Readers might be interested in researching maps of the London sewer system. They may also want to investigate a gentleman’s rules of etiquette in Victorian England. How was a gentleman expected to behave?

Other books about unlikely thieves:
Funke, Cornelia . THE THIEF LORD. ISBN 043942089X
Turner, Megan Whalen. THE THIEF. ISBN 0140388346

By Ellen Reed

No comments: