The Thief Lord
In Brief: Openness of the Venice children in taking in two runaways. Apparent living off stolen goods. Church/confessional used merely as the rendezvous point for a meeting to arrange a robbery.
Publisher: The Chicken House
Published in: 2002
Age Range: Pre Teens
- Prosper & Bo are orphaned brothers who have run away from their wealthy relatives who want to separate them. Bo is a sweet-looking 6-year-old; Prosper is a normal 12-year-old.
- Hornet, Riccio and the others are children living rough in Venice, surviving on the gains from stolen property.
- Scipio is a mysterious and slightly older boy, calling himself The Thief Lord who brings stolen goods to the children's hideout for them to sell.
- Victor Getz is a small-time private eye, employed by Prosper and Bo's uncle and aunt to find the boys.
- Ida Spavento is a well-to-do woman whom the children try to burgle.
Prosper and Bo run away from their uncle and aunt and are caught up in a group of Venice street kids who get money by selling stolen property brought to them by The Thief Lord. Victor Getz, a detective, tracks them down and in doing so reveals The Thief Lord's true identity and becomes more and more involved with the children.
Literary: The book is nicely paced, each chapter quite short and usually switching points of view: now with Prosper, now with Victor, and so on. At one level, there's just a story about a group of children and how they survive, helped by a mysterious friend. But just as that friend's secrets are revealed, and everyone is trying to come to terms with the situation, a new and unexpected plot arrives which carries the story into the realms of the fantastical. The characters are sharply drawn and real, and Venice itself is real, with flaking paint and chilly winds, yet still a glamorous backdrop to all that goes on.
Family: Prosper & Bo's relatives have no real sense of family: they like Bo because he looks nice; when he misbehaves and runs away, they're happy to leave him to an orphanage and take another boy in his place. The children make a home of the deserted cinema they stay in. Hornet, the only girl, plays a motherly role, especially to Bo, the youngest. When Ida catches them trying to rob her house, the result is that she (and Victor) take the children under their wings rather than handing them over to the police or other authorities. Indeed, they go to some lengths to deceive the nuns who run an orphanage so that they hand over one of the children who has been placed in their care.
Robbery: Without giving too much away, the children do live on the proceeds of thefts, but not in quite the way they think, and they all try to shelter Bo from playing any part in the affair.
Prosper nodded. “How did Esther find out we're in Venice?” He pressed his forehead against his pulled-up knees.
“Your uncle told me that it took some time and cost a lot of money.” Victor caught himself looking at the boy sympathetically.
“You would never have found us if I hadn't run into you.”
“Maybe not. Your hideout's quite unusual.”
Prosper looked around. “Scipio found it for us. He also makes sure we have enough money to live on. If it wasn't for him we'd be in real trouble. Riccio used to steal a lot. Mosca and Hornet were both doing quite badly too, before they met Scipio. They don't like to talk about it. Hornet found Bo and me, and Scipio took us in.” Prosper lifted his head. “I don't know why I'm telling you this. You're a detective — you've probably found this out already, haven't you?”
Victor shook his head. “Your friends are none of my business,” he said. “But it's my job to make sure that you and your brother have a home again. Hasn't it occurred to you that your brother is too young to get along without parents?”
Tuesday 9th December 2003