Written by Marne Davis Kellogg — Marne Davis Kellogg is a prolific writer of crime with jet-setting locations and The Real Thing is the fifth in her Kick Keswick series. Kick is the world’s most notorious jewelry thief, now retired and happily married to semi-retired former Scotland Yard detective Sir Thomas Curtis. When her husband is tasked with tracing the gang who has just robbed one of the most exclusive jewelry shops in Paris, he invites Kick to join his team as a consultant. It soon becomes obvious that the gang of thieves have set their eyes on far bigger prizes than mere shop robberies. They have been meticulously planning a spectacular heist for several years now, and will stop at nothing – not even murder – to achieve their goals.
Kick is deeply disturbed by the violence this group is ready to demonstrate, as she was of the far gentler ‘old school’ type of stealing jewels, relying on wit and elaborate cons, rather than brute force. Yet her love of secrets and of acting independently creates friction between her husband and herself, as she endangers both her husband’s team mission and her own life.
The author is fully aware that readers love Kick’s opulent lifestyle, her small manor house in the South of France, the loving descriptions of food, wine and designer fashion. She modestly calls her books ‘capers’ and says ‘they may not change your life but they will surely change your day’. This is escapist crime fiction with a dash of panache and style, reminding me very much of the Cary Grant/Grace Kelly film To Catch a Thief as it shares many of the same settings on the French Riviera.
However, Kick is not a young ingenue, but a mature woman who knows what she wants and who leads exactly the kind of life she wants to lead, one which she has carefully built for herself over many years. But when her inability to trust people and her over-reliance on her own instincts start to affect the investigation, you begin to wonder just how mature Kick really is. Is she in danger of losing the most precious thing in her life? The answer comes from an unexpected quarter, one which may surprise European readers, particularly crime fiction audiences: Kick finds Jesus and her faith once more. While I have nothing against religious beliefs being discussed in a novel, it does feel somewhat at odds with the plot and the style of this particular work.
So, despite its charm and vivid characters, the book does not quite hang together coherently. Much like Kick herself, it can’t quite make up its mind as to what kind of a novel it is.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars