Title: The Housekeepers
Author: Alex Hay
Genre: Historical Fiction
The Housekeepers is the debut novel by Alex Hay about a former housekeeper who plans to extract revenge on her employer with the heist of the century.
It was recommended on Twitter by Chris Carpineti of Raidercast, a Tomb Raider fan site which is well worth a look if you are a fan of the games.
When Mrs. King is unexpectedly dismissed from her housekeeping duties at the illustrious De Vries mansion, following the death of the master, she knows exactly what to do to extract her revenge.
As the Master’s daughter prepares to host a glamorous ball, Mrs. King puts together a team to help her achieve her plan. She recruits a black market queen looking to settle some scores and recover her position as a leading crime figure in London, an actress looking for a magnificent part to play, a seamstress dreaming of a better life and her predecessor who has kept the secrets of the manor for far too long.
Together they hatch a plan to steal everything from under Miss De Vries nose, during the night of the ball. Will they succeed? What ulterior motives do the women have for taking part in the heist? What secrets threatened to be exposed by the gangs actions?
If I was to describe this book I think the easiest way to put it is if you enjoyed Downton Abbey and the movie Oceans Eleven and imagined if those two things had a child, this book would be it and it is a very enjoyable read.
I really loved all four women involved in the heist, they are all well-rounded and interesting characters and all of them have their own secret reasons and motivations for wanting to take part in the heist and there are some great twists in the story as these are gradually revealed to the reader.
I also liked the Edwardian setting which is quite unusual for a heist story but does is unique and during the heist sequences you can imagine the glamour and opulence of the guests whilst the servants steal everything from under their nose. The book also uses the setting very well to explore the class system, how it operated and how it affected women from both the upper and lower classes which is a very interesting theme.
Most of the effectiveness of a story like this hinges on the heist sequence itself and Hay does a great job of maintaining tension throughout this section as unexpected things come up during the night which affects proceedings as they go and you wonder if they can actually pull it off.
You also find yourself rooting for the servants as the anti-heroes in the story as everyone in the mansion comes across as very unpleasant, especially when the dark goings on at the manor are revealed and you hope that they can take back what is rightfully theres.
However I did have some sympathy for Miss De Vries who is trying to protect herself by marrying into high society in London, knowing that she is on shaky ground socially due to her dad being a self-made man rather than inherited wealth. Her character also cuts a tragic figure when she is forced to supress her real romantic feelings for another woman due to society’s expectation of her as a woman which is very well handled in the book.
Overall I very much enjoyed this read as an exciting bit of escapism and I would recommend giving it a try.