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Word Count: 582
Hide and seek and stealThe Thief Lordby Cornelia Funke trans Oliver Latsch 350pp The Chicken House When writers for adults contemplate Venice they behold decay dereliction and death Thomas Mann Daphne du Maurier LP Hartley and Salley Vickers have all dispatched hapless protagonists to Italy where they see Venice - and die Cornelia Funke observes the city with a childs eye There were so many hiding places so many narrow alleys with names no one could remember - some of them with no names at all Boarded-up churches deserted houses the whole city was one huge invitation to play hide and seek But for the children who flit through this maze hide and seek is no game In the disused Stella cinema lives a gang of runaways Hornet Mosca and Riccio who have recently acquired two new members orphaned brothers Prosper and Bo who are fleeing their aunt because she would separate them adopting the cute little one and sending the other to boarding school Life in the Star Place as they call it is precarious The children support themselves by scavenging and stealing They are protected by their mysterious mentor Scipio the Thief Lord who comes and goes by night insisting on secrecy and passwords - part Zorro part Robin Hood In spite of his carnival mask and his high-heeled boots the children are aware that he can barely be older than themselves Nevertheless they believe his tales of high crime and he has the loot to prove it As it turns out Scipio is another unloved child dangerously living out his fantasies Before long the fragile security of this little band comes under threat from adults particularly the detective hired to find Prosper and Bo Victor Getz catches up with them just when Scipio accepts a commission for a daring robbery and the plot which has been gradually slipping the surly bonds of earth becomes fully airborne For despite the apparent dirty realism
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