So, if you’ve seen the 1966 movie, “How to Steal a Million” starring Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole, then you know the events of this book already. I’m not spoiling anything, as the fact that this is a Regency-set “retelling” of “How to Steal a Million” is in the author’s note on the first page of the book. I put “retelling” in quotations because it is scene for scene, character for character (including what they look like), note for note, EXACTLY the same as the movie, except for a few details, such as going much farther into physical intimacy than was allowed in late 1960s family rom-coms, and one other bit. If you’ve seen the movie, you already know that there is a scene in it where Peter O’Toole uses a boomerang. It’s utterly central to the plot and how the ultimate climax of the movie plays out. I read through the book (which, if you know the movie as well as I do, had virtually no surprises) with one central question in mind: how the HELL is Essex going to write that scene without a boomerang? All the other aspects of the story, it was pretty clear how they could easily translate from 1966 London to Regency London. If she DID use the boomerang, I really wanted to know how she was going to justify its presence in Regency England, in use by a character who has no connection to Australia or exotic, rare goods. And so as each delightfully entertaining scene played out (every page reminding me that I should really go watch “How to Steal a Million” again because it’s a ton of fun), all I could think about was how each page was bringing us nearer and nearer to the most important question of all: to boomerang or not boomerang. And then we got to the scene and…
The scene where Peter O’Toole’s character uses the boomerang takes place OFF SCENE. We stay in the Audrey Hepburn-character’s head, who isn’t in the room, and only witness the aftermath. We have no idea what he used as a boomerang substitute. For a book that I enjoyed immensely, with fun characters and a well-paced plot and some very steamy love scenes, the fact that Essex couldn’t think of a substitute boomerang was just… ugh. I actually screamed at the book, “Oh, Come On!”
For those who haven’t seen “How to Steal a Million,” go see the movie. As of the time of this review, it’s up on Netflix as well as Amazon Prime. It’s delightful, and only somewhat dated (gender roles in the 1960s weren’t great, but Audrey Hepburn is incapable of not being perfect). If you’ve seen and enjoyed the movie, this is a fun book that captures its energy and caper job, without really adding a lot. Stupid boomerang.