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| 31 January 2024 | Reply

Hachette Australia
July 2023
Paperback – RRP AUD$32.99
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

The Housekeepers is a thrilling, page turner of an epic revenge saga which introduces us to a motley band of Robin Hood-styled servants who decide to take what’s rightfully theirs from their ex-employer, Mr de Vries, upon the occasion of his passing.

Led by Mrs King, a woman with stronger binds to de Vries than most, the group also includes local underworld figure Mrs Bone, the resourceful Winnie, actress Hephzibar, and seamstress Alice, all of whom have their own reasons for wanting to get even with the household, and their own small claim on de Vries’ fortune.

When the master of the Park Lane house dies in 1905, his daughter pushes ahead with plans to throw the biggest ball of the season, little knowing that Mrs King’s eclectic troupe have an elaborate plan to remove almost every item from the house – right down to the carpets – while the ball rages around them.

It’s an audacious plan – and even if you don’t completely buy into the premise of dozens of thugs removing not only furniture and crates and paintings and books and every other thing from a Park lane mansion while hundreds of people swill champagne downstairs, then Hay’s beautifully drawn characters and intelligent writing is still enough to enjoy this novel wholeheartedly.

I must say that there were times I really wanted this to be based on a true story – or at least made into a movie or mini-series. I can picture who would play most of the primary characters, in fact.

There are some holes present in the plot, other than the biggest one previously mentioned – a sub-story about abuse of servant girls is largely unexplored and unresolved. Motivation of a couple of the gang ladies is implied rather than explained. How some of the ball deceptions could possibly be gotten away with defies even an overactive imagination. Again, the exciting story and otherwise very good writing gets us past these minor niggles.

The Housekeepers is, overall, an excellent debut novel from Alex Hay, and easily as good as anything I’ve read this year.

Category: Book Reviews

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