The Pearl Thief by Fiona McIntosh

The Pearl Thief

Fiona McIntosh

Severine Kassel is asked by the Louvre in 1963 to aid the British Museum with curating its antique jewellery, her specialty. Her London colleagues find her distant and mysterious; her cool beauty the topic of conversations around its quiet halls. No one could imagine that she is a desperately damaged woman, hiding her trauma behind her chic, French image.

It is only when some dramatic Byzantine pearls are loaned to the Museum that Severine’s poise is dashed and the tightly controlled life she’s built around herself is shattered. Her shocking revelation of their provenance sets off a frenzied hunt for Nazi Ruda Mayek.


While I found The Pearl Thief to be initially intriguing, the storyline became too predictable and relied too much on suspension of disbelief. When Severine is shown the pearls that once belonged to her family, she realises Ruda Mayek, the man responsible for the deaths of her parents and siblings, is still alive and vows to gain revenge. Severine is so secretive about her past, she immediately returns to Paris where she purports to feeling safer, however she is approached to a mysterious man in the park and before long she is spilling everything. The man turns out to be Daniel, a retired Mossad agent, who is using Severine to get information on Mayek. Although there is a lot more to Daniel than first suspected, it is really hard to believe Severine would tell a complete stranger her darkest secrets without much prompting. It was a this point, the story lost much of its credibility.

Severine tells Daniel about her childhood in Prague when she was known as Katerina and how Ruda Mayek, a lonely boy, was practically adopted by her family only for him to betray them in the worst way. Wanting to endear himself to their Nazi occupiers, Mayek executes Katerina’s family for being Jewish, however Katerina survives despite being raped and shot in the head. Katerina’s life is saved by a German doctor, Otto, for whom she eventually develops strong feelings. Otto helps Katerina escape to Switzerland, however they do not act upon their feelings as Otto is much older than her and married.

As Severine tells her story, Daniel begins to fall in love with her which leads him to tell her the truth about who he is and why he needs her help. The author tells us repeatedly that Severine is a beautiful and alluring woman but having every man she meets fall in love with her gets beyond tedious. Most of the first half of the book is spent building a relationship between Daniel and Severine as they have much in common but all of that is destroyed when Severine claims she can’t love anyone because she is so damaged. Yet, within a few chapters, Severine falls in love with Edward, the lawyer, with ridiculous ease. From this moment onwards, Daniel is pushed unceremoniously into the background and I cannot help feeling his character was done a great disservice.

The plot was unnecessarily convoluted and very predictable which meant the later revelations fell completely flat as they were easy to work out and the ending seemed to drag on interminably.