The Jewel Thief

Viking. May 2020. 368p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781984837417.
Gr 7 Up–Juliette Pitau is the daughter of the King’s crown jeweler, a man renowned for his unique ability to cut precious stones. The Tavernier Blue diamond should have been his highest achievement yet; instead, it ruins him, a downfall that Juliette is desperate to repair. She takes charge of events when her father loses himself to alcohol, making several misguided decisions that land her in prison awaiting execution. The story unfolds as a confession of how both Juliette and her father are innocent of treason and theft, striving selflessly for the glory of France and King Louis XIV. In the end they are pardoned but at great cost. Set in 1673 Paris, this predictable mystery exposes the greed and petulance of King Louis XIV’s court, especially the politics of court artisans. While the history and setting are delightful, the ongoing naivety of the protagonist and her continued bad decisions may irritate readers. In addition, the supposed passion and minor love scenes between Juliette and her former beloved appear abrupt and out of place. Yet overall, the story is enjoyable if easy to anticipate. An author’s note at the end clarifies historical accuracy and the origins of the Hope Diamond as well as a brief history of Jews in France during the mid-seventeenth century.
VERDICT A fun, additional purchase for avid historical fiction readers.

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