The Library Thief: A Novel

We rated this book:


The Library Thief by Kuchenga Shenje has all the makings of a rich, atmospheric Gothic mystery that I usually devour—an enigmatic Victorian manor, long-buried secrets, and questions surrounding a lord’s late wife. Regrettably, this novel tries to juggle too many complex threads and ends up feeling muddled and overwritten in places, obscuring what could have been a tightly-woven, propulsive story.

The premise of a mixed-race bookbinder restoring Lord Belfield’s rare library while unraveling the mystery of his wife’s fate shows great potential. The author’s evocative descriptions certainly bring the opulent estate and its forbidding grounds vividly to life. I was equally intrigued by protagonist’s, Florence, acts of defiance against the racism and misogyny of the era.

However, the labyrinthine plot meanders through one too many divergent storylines and genres—Gothic mystery, historical fiction, coming-of-age tale—ultimately lacking coherence. I have to ask where the editor was with this title, which could have formed this novel into a haunting and immersing read. This was an ambitious novel and still has a lot to recommend it in terms of subject matter, even if it missed the landing for overall reader experience.

Reviewed By:

Author Kuchenga Shenjé
Star Count 3.5/5
Format Hard
Page Count 368 pages
Publisher Hanover Square Press
Publish Date 07-May-2024
ISBN 9781335909695 Buy this Book
Issue May 2024
Category Historical Fiction