House of Thieves by Charles Belfoure

A mathematician, an Harvard graduate and son of a respectable architect from old times Newyork’s high society has racked up a baffling amount of gambling debt with the underbelly king, for which his life is in danger. Father, the protagonist is drawn into the world of crime and he must use his knowledge of high society mansions, hotels and museum designs to set up a series of robberies in order to repay the debt.

Set in the Newyork of late 19th century, the story starts promisingly with the gang’s introduction, setting up the high society background where each and every character is perfectly following the society rules and seems perfectly enjoying it, never resenting the hypocrisy. The poor and criminal side of the gilded age Newyork is introduced timely as and when the Father and the son stepped into the world.

And this is where the charm of the book ends that is with the plot and the beginning. The robberies are based on the architecture’s inside knowledge of buildings but except the first two, all other robberies turned out to be just an account of size of rooms, paintings, the types of gowns, the china and jewels and all this was repeated over and over. The description of society parties elaborating the food, the cutlery and the people was more than required for the plot.

Except the beginning, the writing is plain, dull and is not enjoyable. One by one all of the family is living a double life, the high society life as well as a life involved in gambling and crimes suitable to their age. All of them enjoying both not resenting any moment of it except for the eldest son who though can’t control his gambling urge, is at least aware of the weakness.

It is somewhat unbelievable that the entire family chooses to explore the bad side of town at the same time. None of the characters evoke any empathy or emotional connection, in fact I felt miserable at the end when crime became the way of life for the family along with maintaining the high society status.

The end can be easily foreseen. After spending a great deal of time on detailing the parties and the accounting the gowns, china and jewels where one would actually want to skip through the pages, the events at the end unfolds in a haste rather. I would have either preferred the investigating brother of the protagonist to have a longer time in the story rather than murdered abruptly or not to have him at all in the story.

I am surprised with the great reviews the book has received, it was not at all a captivating one for me as the plot promised.

Rated 2 on Goodreads.

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