Review: Petteril’s Thief by Mary Lancaster (2023)

Posted March 10, 2024 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

NOTE: not a Regency romance as such, more of a Regency cosy mystery.
This book had a difficult start – the hero is first encountered on a high balcony, contemplating suicide. Although he doesn’t jump (obviously!) and goes on to behave far more sensibly, I found it hard to get past that opening. Can a man who is suicidal really recover his spirits so quickly? Creative licence, perhaps, but to me it was a jarring note.

Here’s the premise: Piers Withan is an academic at Oxford, happily buried in his books and not interested in the world outside. But when a number of family deaths lead to him inheriting a viscountcy, he reluctantly leaves the world of academia and returns to London to take up his role as head of the family. This is where we first see him, so miserable that he contemplates ending it all. But he’s rescued from the brink by the unlikely person of Ape, a sneak thief, sent into the seemingly empty house to steal whatever could be found. There’s not much – the Withan family have already been through it helping themselves, including swiping a valuable ruby necklace.

This sets in train the mystery. Piers tracks down Ape and recruits the thief to help, with a job as a groom and as the tiger who rides on the back of his curricle. Piers has to try to decide which of his resentful and greedy relations actually stole the necklace, and he finds himself increasingly drawn into their convoluted affairs. They, in turn, realise that he might be small and bookish, but he’s cleverer than they are and won’t be pushed around.

This is a short book but it covers a lot of ground, setting up the two principal characters of Piers and Ape as well as the basic plot. Book two sees them off to the country to see what’s brewing at Viscount Petteril’s estate, which I have already bought and plan to read immediately. This would be five stars but for that dismal opening, so four stars it is.


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