Almost 16-year-old Lady Julia Beaufort-Stuart is looking forward to one last summer at Strathfearn before her granddad’s estate is sold off. One last summer walking along the river, fishing for pearls, visiting her librarian friend Mary at the Inverfearnie Island Library, and helping to catalog all the artifacts and other ancient treasures that all need to be sorted and sent off to their new homes in museums – like the pearl bracelet that was Mary Queen of Scots’ own. But when Julie arrives home early and walks down to the river when no one is about the house, the last thing she expects to start her summer is a fierce crack on the head that knocks her unconscious. When she wakes in the hospital three days later, she has no memory of what happened to her.
No one seems to have seen anything either – not Julie’s mum, nor Mary, who was coming back to the library from the village, and not the Traveller brother and sister, Euan and Ellen McEwan, who found her and took her to the hospital, despite the suspicious eye of the local police when it comes to Travellers camping on the estate. When Julie realizes that the scholar working to catalog the artifacts has been missing since the day of her accident, she knows there’s more going on than just an accident. The only clue seems to be a tiny river pearl found in an envelope among the clutter of artifacts in the library – and her own foggy childhood memories of a hoard of river pearls that no longer seem to be with the other things from the estate. And then an unidentifiable body is discovered in the river, and the mystery only deepens. Is it a murder? A suicide? An accident? And how can she stand up for her new Traveller friends against the deeply ingrained prejudices of the police, the estate workers, and even her friend Mary?
Together with Ellen and Euan, Julie sets out to uncover the truth of what really happened to her, what became of Dr. Housman, and what became of her granddad’s pearls.
If you read and loved and wept over Elizabeth Wein’s award-winning Code Name Verity and fell madly in love with Julie like I did, you’ll love to see the beginnings of this wonderfully brave, marvelously feisty, and wickedly intelligent future double agent. If you haven’t read that one, no worries – you’ll still love The Pearl Thief and will be thrilled to go on to the next one. Wein is a master of historical fiction – reading her novels makes you feel like the characters are just in the next room and you could easily step through the door and into the past. If you’ve been looking for a book to lay around with and extend these last, lazy days of summer with, look no further!