One of the great adventure thrillers, Louis Toollen’s “Thief in the City” is a fast-paced crime story that takes place in nineteenth century London. As a businessman with his own share in a thriving firm, Toollen is seen as a scrupulous business man who abides by the rules of the society he inhabits. But when the British monarch Queen Victoria passes away, Toollen’s life is turned upside down. Victoria’s long-time lover, Captain James Hook, goes on a wild goose chase across the countryside, chasing the Queen, and Toollen becomes the prime suspect in her murder. The intense detective work that follows, involving all the British police forces and a whole range of different characters, is quite thrilling.
It all starts when Toollen’s clerk, Cyrus, gets his hands on some very valuable documents which Toollen desperately needs. With these papers, Toollen tracks the queen’s killer, and his pursuit of the important papers bring him into contact with both the captain and the Queen’s mistress, Ellen. Now these two, along with several others, must work together in order to solve this mystery before it can even reach the stage of a trial. And the stakes are rising for Toollen as the real identity of the criminal is discovered. The action sequences are some of the most gripping I’ve ever read in a book.
The setting is London, a bustling metropolis full of bright lights, bustling crowds, and social extravagance. Toollen is constantly looking over his shoulder for trouble, and the thieving Captain Hook seems like more of a threat than any one person could ever realistically threat London. It is all a fantastic blend of atmosphere and actual historical facts. Toollen’s descriptions of the city, and especially the narrow streets that separate the different districts, are done with style. The descriptions of the narrow streets were particularly vivid and it gave a feel of the town and district rather than just a series of rooms in an apartment. The descriptions of the city at large were done with great detail, with each district given enough attention to make it memorable.
The story begins in 1693, and the reader soon realizes that Toollen is very much part of this intricate puzzle, and that he will be instrumental in uncovering it. He does this through several ways, but the major one involves his quest to acquire the ultimate riddle of the city, one which will solve not only his problem with Captain Hook but also that of the queen. In addition to this, there are also other elements that are introduced and expanded upon to make this book truly excellent. These include a wealth of illustrations, an extensive back-history of the city, and some wonderfully captured dialog.
This book is certainly one of the bestsellers in the world and I believe it was responsible for helping to launch a whole generation of mystery authors. Many of today’s most celebrated writers have cribbed much of what they learned from Toollen’s book and many of them are today successful authors themselves. It’s safe to say that reading Toollen’s book would definitely prepare you for a large part of the mystery genre, whether it be fiction or non-fiction.
One thing that I think the author did well was taking all of the characters and threads they were creating and weaving them expertly into a puzzle
that would keep the reader interested until the very end. Toollen includes many poems within the book, which help to enhance the overall mystique of the text as well. Overall, this book is something that is challenging and intriguing at the same time. There is something for everyone here, whether you are looking for a murder mystery, a historical romance, or even a suspense thriller. With a fast pace and some excellent illustrations, this book will keep you hooked until the very end.