Kate Parker’s The Vanishing Thief is a delightful debut novel and the first in her Victorian Bookshop Mystery series. Georgia Fenchurch, the proprietress of said bookshop, is a member of the Archivist Society, a secret association of investigators. Well, they strive to be secretive, but it doesn’t always work out that way, as Georgia learns when a strange woman bursts into her shop, insists that the Duke of Blackford has kidnapped her neighbor, and demands that Georgia and her fellow Archivists investigate. As unlikely as the woman’s story seems, it intrigues Georgia enough to set an investigation in motion, an investigation that soon becomes entangled with a tragedy from Georgia’s past and the events that brought her into the world of detective work years before.
Guided by the enigmatic Sir Broderick, head of the Archivists, and aided by her shop assistant Emma, a beautiful former street urchin, Georgia infiltrates the high society world of the suspect Duke, a most attractive and possibly dangerous man. He has his own secrets, but do they involve the missing man, or something else entirely? And just what was the missing man up to? How did he manage to learn so many dangerous secrets, and which of those secrets might have led to his disappearance—or worse?
Georgia is a down-to-earth middle class spinster, wondering if she’s gotten in over her head trying to untangle a puzzle involving the family secrets of the aristocracy, and her attraction to the Duke doesn’t help at all. The time is the late Victorian Era, electric lighting is coming into use, and life in London is beginning to change. But class attitudes are as entrenched as ever, and shop-owner Georgia is not prepared for some of the tasks she must undertake. Is the Duke really helping, or is he steering her in the wrong direction?
Surrounded by a diverse cast of supporting characters, Georgia is a first-rate investigator and a delightful new heroine. Her next adventure, The Counterfeit Lady, arrives in August, and it’s definitely on my shopping list.