Montmorency: Thief, Liar, Gentleman? by Eleanor Updale

Montmorency, named for the brand of clothes he was wearing when they found him, is also known as prisoner 491. He was a common thief who had a spot of very bad luck when he fell through a skylight trying to elude capture by the police. Dr. Farcett, a doctor who decided to stake his career on saving his life, spent many long hours performing dangerous surgery to save his life. Little did he know that his efforts at saving Montmorency, and his trips to the National Scientific Society, would give rise to a new criminal instinct in Montmorency. Upon his release, he has a plan: he will use the newly installed sewer system as his escape route after his upscale burglaries. His thievery will fund his new life as a gentleman.

He creates an alter ego to do his dirty work, and calls him Scarper. It is Scarper who will traverse the sewers, and carry out the burglaries. He begins his crime spree, to the dismay of the London police force, who cannot figure out who or how these crimes are being committed. After he has amassed a great enough fortune, he draws on his study with Dr. Farcett to create Montmorency, the gentleman. He even goes so far as to steal the Doctor's clothing, down to his cufflinks and top hat. He needs everyone else to think that he truly IS a gentleman, especially the staff at the Marimion Hotel. The one last thing he steals from Dr. Farcett is stationary, so he can write himself a letter of recommendation to the manager.

It is only when his exploits as Scarper are pinned on one of his former prison roommates that he decides to take a break from his life of crime. He begins to explore the opportunities afforded only to the rich--fashion, opera, and fancy food. But he must always be on his guard, and has a moment at the hatter's which leaves him apprehensive. The hatter identifies the hat he stole from Dr. Farcett, and offers to return it to him. At a loss, Montmorency tells the hatter that he will return it himself, claiming that they must have been switched at some point.

Updale weaves a delightful tale of a double life, keeping the reader on their toes, and interjecting unforgettable characters along the way. Cissie Longman, the Marimion Hotel manager's daughter, is one particular favorite. As the first in a series, Montmorency promises action, intrigue, and suspense, and even a little bit of morality along the way.

"The more Montmorency mixed with Doctor Farcett and observed the members of the Scientific Society, the more convinced he was that he would never return to his old place at the bottom end of London's lowlife. He knew what he was aiming at and was conviced that with the sewer plan he had found the ideal method for making his fortune..." (Updale pg. 30, 2003).
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If you liked this, check out:
Montmorency on the Rocks: Doctor, Aristocrat, Murderer? by Eleanor Updale
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

Updale, Eleanor. (2003). Montmorency: Thief, Liar, Gentleman? Orchard Books (Scholastic): New York, NY.

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