Posted by: Lizzie Ross | August 19, 2011

Victorian villainy

Montmorency: Thief Liar Gentleman (2003), Eleanor Updale, 233 pp.

I discovered the first three books of this series in a small library in Nova Scotia, and they were perfect stormy-weather reading: dark doings in Victorian England, with the hero rising through luck and good connections.

We meet Montmorency in prison, where he starts learning tricks of disguise and imitation. He volunteers for heavy labor to build muscle, and listens carefully as others talk of their errors. Montmorency swears not to follow in their footsteps. A chance prison lecture by the man who designed the London sewer system gives our hero the idea he needs for committing perfect robberies, and once released, he becomes a successful criminal. Using the sewer system as his get-away car, he steals items, sells them to fences, and then enlarges his bank account.

There are fairly disgusting scenes below the streets of London, as Montmorency explores the maze of tunnels — Updale must have had fun imagining these tunnels, full of untreated sewage from the rich and the poor. A flash flood nearly drowns Montmorency, he has to avoid the tunnel maintenance crews, and always there’s the chance that he’ll catch a fatal illness down there.

When he has earned enough money to start life as a gentleman, Montmorency begins moving in upper society. This is where he meets his greatest friend, Lord George Fox-Selwyn, and for much of this series, the two work together to foil dastardly plots organized by anarchists.

Chase scenes, espionage, bombs, disguises, under-cover operations, assassinations (foiled and successful) — all the stuff of international intrigue, all here for your enjoyment. Updale spares none of her characters, and the good guys don’t always win.

Montmorency on the Rocks: Doctor Aristocrat Murderer? (2004), Montmorency and the Assassins: Master Criminal Spy? (2006), Mormorency’s Revenge (2008)

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Responses

  1. Very cool. Thank you.

  2. […] may recall from my post about the wickedly complex Montmorency (is he good? is he bad? is he a clever combination of the […]


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