The Thief's Heart

The Letter Series

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
368 Pages
Reviewed on 02/13/2020
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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

The Thief’s Heart is a work of historical fiction set in the late nineteenth century, penned by author Kathleen Shoop. Forming the fourth novel of The Letter Series, this installment takes place in Des Moines in the year 1892. The Arthur family has had some hard times in the past, but their luck appears to change when they find new lodgings with the mysterious Violet Pendergrass. The action of this novel centers largely around fifteen-year-old Tommy, whose duties to care for and provide for his destitute family weigh heavily on the young man’s shoulders. Turning to sinister means and vices in order to cope could spell trouble for everyone yet again.

This is a spiraling family saga with many plotlines and in-depth characters, all of whom are so easy to root for during the trials and tribulations of their lives. The historical period of the novel is well-chosen to give the characters relative freedom, but also keep them frustratingly constrained as we, the readers, dearly want to see them succeed and thrive. As a central protagonist to this tale, Tommy steals hearts, despite some of the dubious things he does, because his motivations are heart-wrenching, especially when tragedy strikes the family yet again. Author Kathleen Shoop has a real knack for timing and planning the progression of events, which makes for an exciting plot but also a realistic conclusion. Overall, The Thief’s Heart is a high-quality historical family saga and is recommended to fans of the genre everywhere.

Ankita Shukla

So much had happened in the life of the Arthur family after their inheritance fell through. However, once Tommy found a chance to live with his mother and both his sisters, he vowed to do everything in his power to never again be separated from them. Regardless of his resolve, his impulsive actions often landed him in trouble. For some reason, Judge Calder was always there to punish him severely. The only solace for his aching heart was Pearl, whom he adored. To add to his evergrowing list of worries, the health of his twin sister, Katherine, was deteriorating. The Thief's Heart (The Letter Series) by Kathleen Shoop is a fascinating tapestry of an unpredictable life and intense human emotions.

When you lose your wealth, you lose so much with it. Kathleen Shoop has done a magnificent job of expressing every emotion that follows a sudden loss of money: desperation to earn more, guilt at spending even a penny on yourself, hurt at seeing a shift in attitude of the people who were once your friends. Kathleen Shoop is an expert at weaving complex attributes into her characters. Just like real people, her characters have good and bad sides to them. The plot moves at a steady pace with an almost rhythmic narration. The story of The Thief's Heart flows like life. It conveys strong life-lessons without trying too hard. One can steal your money but not your depth of character. Tommy's mother lost her money and was struggling to make ends meet, yet her persona reflected her strong identity. The same was true for Tommy and his sister Katherine. The Thief's Heart (The Letter Series) by Kathleen Shoop is the perfect book to read about complicated lives, conflicting emotions, strong willpower, and magical love.

Grant Leishman

The Thief’s Heart: The Letter Series by Kathleen Shoop is a coming-of-age story in a different time and a very different place from now. Tommy Arthur is a fifteen-year-old growing up in Des Moines, Iowa, at the end of the nineteenth century. Like many developing cities in America at the time, Des Moines is a mixture of God-fearing, yet incredibly superstitious people and those who walk a little too close to the line of the law at times. The biggest problem for Tommy is that many of them are one and the same, like the Reverend who uses boys to deliver and sell written prayers to his parishioners whilst encouraging them to steal from the same parishioners. Throw in Judge Calder who, rather than being the pillar of society he pretends to be, is actually involved in almost all of the nefarious goings-on in Des Moines. Tommy has had it rough for many years, ever since his once-wealthy family was disgraced over his grandfather’s collapsed investment scheme. Tommy just wants his wandering father to return home and his precious family to be back together. Money can always be earned again, but the broken family needs to be mended before Tommy will ever be satisfied. And then there are the strange feelings he has for the beautiful but simple girl, Pearl, who works at the Post Office.

I love historical novels and The Thief’s Heart has everything that fulfills my wish list. Author Kathleen Shoop has an evocative style of writing that conjures up great fantasies in the minds of her young characters. It was so easy to identify with Tommy’s innermost angsts and especially his battle with the accursed whiskey. Tommy’s “rose-colored” glasses didn’t allow him to understand the truth of what had happened to his beloved family and the reader is swept along in his almost twisted determination that things should go back to how they were before. At times, as a reader, I just wanted to reach into the pages and give Tommy a solid shake, telling him to get real and get with the program. In my opinion, any author that can get that type of response from a reader has done his or her job extremely well. The juxtaposition of the superstitious nature and gullibility of the townspeople coupled with the beginning of new technology and a new age was perfectly captured. This book is clearly part of a series that focuses on the life and times of this family and the final chapter made me hungry for more and wondering where next Tommy and Pearl’s adventures might take them. This is a very readable and enjoyable coming-of-age, historical drama and one I can highly recommend.

Rabia Tanveer

The Thief's Heart is the fourth book in The Letter Series by Kathleen Shoop. This is the story of fifteen-year-old Tommy as he is trying to make sense of his life while being the man his family deserves. After his father’s and elder brother’s deaths, Tommy and his family are finally getting a break. Violet Pendergrass seems to be the answer to their desperate prayers. Now all Tommy has to do is make sure his family is safe. But when things get tough, he likes to drink a little too much and this is becoming an issue for him. His mother’s interaction with a new man in their lives is irking him; he isn’t getting along with his family and he seems to be attracted to Pearl Riverside a little too much. With things slowly getting out of hand, he is struggling to find his center and trying to protect his family. But can he do it when people all around him are manipulating and wanting something from him?

Tommy’s story gripped my heart and didn’t let me go until I finished it. Tommy’s struggles and his need to offer the best to his family are very relatable. He is a teenager trying his best to make sure the family never has to go through any hurt again. You get to experience Tommy’s growth up close and personal; you will cheer him on and want him to succeed. He is such a human character, one in which you will find pieces of yourself and you will feel like he is a friend that you don’t want to let go. The pace of The Thief's Heart by Kathleen Shoop was not slow, but it wasn’t too fast; it was perfect for Tommy’s growth. I enjoyed his reactions, his interactions with other characters and how this shaped him. It was an emotional story to read, but worth it.

Romuald Dzemo

The Thief's Heart is the fourth entry in The Letter Series by Kathleen Shoop. This is a beautifully written story that explores the threads that bind a family together and the crisis that threatens them. A family loses its promised inheritance and is welcomed by Violet Pendergrass, whose motives are not so very clear. The reader follows the family as young Tommy Arthur struggles to balance his personal ambitions with the struggle to protect and provide for the family. The relationship with his twin sister, Catherine, is not the best, both being secretive. Tommy is not in a good relationship with his mother as well, with jealousy playing a part in the tension. But when Yale, his little sister, experiences tragedy, their lives spiral out of control. In an environment riddled by conflict, a fraudulent justice system, and gangs forming in the street, Tommy has very little time to make choices that may make or mar his family.

A character-driven, captivating story that explores family dynamics, The Thief's Heart is spellbinding. The reader is immediately introduced to the protagonist, fifteen-year-old Tommy Arthur manning the doors of the Savery Hotel, and a very intriguing phrase gives the first insight into the kind of boy he is: “Mind occupied, heart empty.” I wanted to understand why he could be described this way. And throughout the story, the author explores the complex character of Tommy, who struggles to open his heart, always suspicious of others and mostly keeping to himself. Kathleen Shoop writes in beautiful prose and tells the story in a voice that is captivating and confident. I enjoyed every bit of this narrative. An entertaining story, indeed.