Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Pearl Thief (Code Name Verity #0.5), by Elizabeth Wein (author), Maggie Service (narrator)

Bolinda Publishing, May 2017

Julia Beaufort-Stuart is fifteen years old, and hasn't yet learned to fly. She's at her grandfather's estate for the summer, and was looking forward to a last, happy summer holiday there.

When she wakes up in the hospital, with little memory of the events that led to her injuries, she knows it's not going to be a normal summer.

Euan and Ellen McEwan, Scots Traveller teens who found her and got her to the hospital, start out as her best chance of finding out what happened. Gradually, they become her friends. Meanwhile, events get stranger and stranger. Hugh Houseman, a scholar employed to help catalog the Murray Hoard and other valuables attached to the estate, disappears on the same day Julia is hurt. A collection of pearls that was part of the Murray Hoard, and which Julia remembers playing with as a young child, is missing and no one else seems to care about it.

And then a body is found, dismembered, but believed to be Houseman's. When it's determined that Houseman was murdered, rather than dying accidentally or by suicide, the Travellers are the favorite suspects. The growing friendship between the McEwans and the Beaufort-Stuarts means Julia experiences first-hand some of the prejudice and discrimination against the Travellers.

Julia is flirting with Frank Dunbar, another scholar employed on the estate, after giving him the impression she's a few weeks from her eighteenth, not her sixteenth, birthday. Her youngest brother, Jamie, is interested in Ellen McEwan. Their French grandmother's companion, Solange, was involved with Houseman. When older brother Sandy arrives, to take on the work Houseman was doing, he gets very friendly with Mary Kinneard, the librarian. There seem to be people prowling the estate at night, who just don't seem to be the hired night watchmen.

Julia is coming of age while her family is going through a major transition, and while no awareness of it seems to have reached the Beaufort-Stuarts in Scotland yet, Europe is sliding toward war. She's not yet interested in flying--but she does know she doesn't want to stay home and live a quiet life, either as either a married woman or as a professional woman like Mary. I could not stop listening to this audiobook.

A minor point, but I noticed it: Unlike most of the books I've read or listened to lately, this is told entirely from Julia's point of view. We only know what she knows, and what we can infer from what she knows. She's a smart teenager, but she's a teenager, who has led a relatively sheltered life--more sheltered even that her brother Jamie, because it's the 1930s, and they're from an aristocratic family. Anyone who has read Code Name Verity knows she'll go on to experiences that are anything but sheltered, but this is a look at her life before that. Wein wants us to get to know her characters, and look at them from different parts of their experience.

Recommended.

I bought this audiobook.