Review of The Pearl Thief, by Elizabeth Wein

The Pearl Thief

by Elizabeth Wein

Hyperion, 2017. 326 pages.
Starred Review

The Pearl Thief is a prequel to the brilliant Code Name Verity. You can read the books in any order. They don’t overlap at all. You’ll learn more about the character of Julia Beaufort-Stuart, who took the code name Verity during World War II.

In this book, Julie comes home to Scotland from boarding school during the summer she is to turn sixteen. Her grandfather the Earl of Strathfearn has recently died, and her grandmother had to sell the estate to pay bills. So workmen are all over the grounds, preparing to turn it into a school, and the family is packing up their things and spending one last summer at Strathfearn.

Julie arrived home a few days early, when no one was expecting her. The house is empty, so she put on some old clothes and went down to the river – and there she got whacked on the head and left unconscious.

When Julie wakes up in the hospital, the nurses think she’s a Scottish Traveler, a Tinker. Some Travelers found her and brought her in, and no one knew that she was coming home so early.

The man who was in charge of cataloging the Murray collection went missing the same day Julie got hit on the head. As Julie’s memory comes back, she remembers seeing him in the river. Did he commit suicide? Or was he murdered? And who hit Julie?

Meanwhile, Julie makes friends with the Traveler family and sees how everyone in the neighborhood would like to pin the crimes on them.

In this book, it’s fun to again enjoy carefree and bold Julia Beaufort-Stuart. But there’s also plenty of mystery. Also missing from the Murray collection are some Scottish river pearls. And there’s an ancient log boat in the river that the workers carelessly start dredging up – then revealing parts of a body.

We’ve got a story dealing with assault, murder, theft, ancient treasures, and prejudice. And the mystery wraps up with some thrillingly dangerous moments as well. It’s also a coming-of-age story, as Julie experiments with kissing, learns to drive, and wants to be seen as an adult.

I like everything Elizabeth Wein writes, so I have some bias by now. I thought the mystery was a little bit rambling, but mostly it was great to again be in the company of the delightful Julia Beaufort-Stuart.

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