Early 14th century
Thief, pickpocket, burglar, conman: Oswald is all of these and also an unregenerate womaniser. From the bed of a housemaid he goes in search of the lord’s treasure and finds it. Alas, as he is creeping out he is seen by a guard, and his loot is scattered in the ensuing chase. He is also spotted by the lord himself before he leaps out of a window to make his escape, only to trip over a corpse in the garden. Well, that’s Oswald. Womaniser, burglar, always with a Plan and for whom things tend to go wrong.
His lordship recognised our hero. (As the story progresses, it seems most of London knows him.) Lord Percy de Mandeville is Keeper of the Wardrobe at the Tower of London, and he has an audacious enterprise he wants Oswald to carry out: stealing the crown jewels from the Tower. If Oswald doesn’t agree, it’s the noose for burglary and murder.
Oswald comes up with a Plan. To help him is his friend, the simple and unworldly Geoff, who has a useful talent as a lock-breaker; also the ever-complaining Walter, their landlord – his talent is he can read – who reluctantly gets roped in. The gang is completed by a loony alchemist, a strong but silent blacksmith, and Alison, a tavern owner whose late husband left her in debt. Needless to say, our hero takes a shine to her.
This is a rollicking good story, with a protagonist who is a lovable villain, an interesting cast of secondary characters, a textbook villain, and lots of laughs along the way. The plot is implausible but that’s the kind of book it is. If the reader can suspend their disbelief they will enjoy this delightful romp.
Having assembled such an interesting and likable cast of characters, I would hope the author has more adventures in store for them. It would be a shame to just let them pass away into oblivion.
There were a very few typos, but I highly recommend the for those looking for a light and humorous read.
Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
© Susan Appleyard