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Years ago, Owen Renderwell earned acclaim – and a title – for the dashing rescue of a kidnapped duchess. But only a select few knew that Scotland Yard’s most famous detective was working alongside London’s most infamous thief…and his criminally brilliant daughter, Charlotte Walker.
Lottie was like no other woman in Victorian England. She challenged him. She dazzled him. She questioned everything he believed and everything he was, and he has never wanted anyone more. And then he lost her.
Now a private detective on the trail of a murderer, Owen has stormed back into Lottie’s life. She knows that no matter what they may pretend, he will always be a man of the law and she a criminal. Yet whenever he’s near, Owen has a way of making things complicated…and long for a future that can never be theirs.
Alissa Johnson Has A Talent For Trickery
I’m delighted to introduce A Talent for Trickery, the first book in my new Victorian-set Thief-takers series. Our hero, Private Investigator Owen Renderwell, is on the hunt for a thief and murderer. And he knows just how to catch his man. All he needs is a little help from our heroine, Miss Charlotte Walker-Bales. The daughter of an infamous confidence man, Lottie is in a unique position to offer insight into the mind and motives of a hardened criminal. There’s just one flaw in Owen’s otherwise excellent plan. Lottie hasn’t spoken to him in eight years. She has no interest in working alongside a man of the law, and certainly not the one who betrayed her trust, endangered her family, and broke her heart.
Lottie did agree, however, to deliver a brief message to those readers who claim no affiliation with The Thief-takers, Scotland Yard, or any other investigative or law enforcement agency.
To whomever it may be of interest,
I have received of late a fair number of requests for advice on how best to lie, cheat, steal, and swindle one’s way to fame and fortune.
Obviously, I have never personally engaged in such reprehensible behavior.
I will admit, however, to being the eldest daughter of the late Mr. William Walker, who was alleged (but never officially proven) to have been a successful thief and trickster. You will find below a page taken from one of his journals.*
William Walker’s Guide to Trickery and Deceit.
Lessons for my darling [name redacted]
1. Pick your mark carefully. Don’t toy with a tiger when a kitten will do.
2. Know your mark well. Learn his fears, his desires, his strengths and weaknesses. One cannot manipulate a man without first having a firm grasp of him.
3. Never take from a mark more than he can afford to lose. Steal a hundred pounds from a prince, and it’s unlikely he’ll report the crime. He would prefer to quietly suffer the inconvenience than admit to the shame of having been duped. Steal a shilling from a pauper, and he’ll hunt you down like a dog. Which is why you must always…
4. Use an alias, change it often, and never stay in one place for too long. Don’t make it easy for your enemies to find you.
5. Be careful of the lies you tell. But more importantly…
6. Be careful with the truth. Nothing will land a body in hot water quite so quick as too much honesty.
7. There is no honor amongst thieves. If you must work with accomplices, then make certain that, no matter how many parties are involved, you are the least trustworthy of the lot. In this way, you will always know from which direction betrayal is most likely to arise.
8. Disregard 7 if your accomplice is also your father.
9. Carry upon your person a set of lock picks at all times. One never knows when one might need entrance through a barred door, or exit from set of manacles.
10. Know when to give up on a scheme. No plan is fool-proof. You cannot possibly account for every conceivable obstacle and danger. When the odds of failure outpace the chances of success, walk away. No amount of coin is worth your freedom, or your life.
*This material is offered only as an example of my father’s creative musings on a theoretical life of crime. It is not an admittance of actual criminal activity undertaken by any member of my family.
However, were I the sort of woman inclined to take such instructions to heart, I believe I would pay particular attention to lesson number 6.
With Kindest Regards,
Miss Charlotte Walker-Bales
Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, 3 November 2015
Time and Setting: England, 1872
Heat Level: 1
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars
Review by Jill
It has been eight years since Owen Renderwell has seen Charlotte Walker – now Charlotte Bales – since he was Detective Inspector Renderwell of Scotland Yard, and she was the accomplice and daughter of one of London’s most infamous thieves. Now a private investigator, Viscount Renderwell arrives at Charlotte’s home in Norfolk, where she lives with her sister, Esther and brother, Peter. Accompanying him are his partners Sir Samuel Brass and Sir Gabriel Arkwright. Owen is in need of Lottie’s help. Investigating a series of burglaries and a murder where the culprit has left cryptic letters at the scene, he believes that her father’s old journals may hold the key to decoding them.
A renowned and infamous thief and conman, William Walker wrote everything down in his journals – his activities, his codes, his encryptions. When he was caught he chose to work with the police rather than face prosecution, and had worked with Owen before his death eight years previously. Due to her father’s death, Owen and Charlotte parted on unfriendly terms, and Owen knows that his arrival at her home will be neither warm nor welcome.
Set in Victorian England, A Talent for Trickery is Alissa Johnson’s first new novel in three years, and as a big fan of her previous historical romances, I’ve been keen to read this new series. This is yet another warm and delightful romance between the thirty year-old Charlotte, now living a respectable life in the country with her younger siblings, and the honest, down-to-earth Owen, who doesn’t particularly relish the status to which he’s been elevated.
Given that Owen is an investigator, unravelling the mystery is a large part of the plot. As usual with Ms Johnson’s writing, the characterisations of both protagonists and secondary characters are fleshed-out. The dialogue is realistic and imbued with touches of subtle humour. Owen is honorable and level-headed; Lottie is smart and independent. Their attraction is still there when they first meet again, yet Ms Johnson thankfully takes her time rebuilding their relationship.
I’m looking forward to the next title in this series which I should imagine will feature either of Owen’s partners, Gabriel or Samuel. With the same deft touch of her previous novels, A Talent for Trickery is another wonderful historical romance and an enjoyable opening to her new Thief-Takers series. Recommended for readers who enjoy superior writing, an engrossing mystery and a lovely romance.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alissa Johnson is a RITA-nominated author of historical romance. She grew up on Air Force bases and attended St. Olaf College in Minnesota. She currently resides in the Arkansan Ozarks where she spends her free time keeping her Aussie dog busy, visiting with family, and dabbling in archery.