Stealing People

Written by Robert Wilson

Review written by Judith Cutler

Judith Cutler is the author of many short stories and some thirty novels. Her most recent is Ring of Guilt (Severn House) the latest in the series featuring antique dealers Griff Tripp and Lina Townend. Check out the other novels on

Stealing People
RRP: £18.99
Released: June 18, 2015

Robert Wilson has a well-deserved reputation for producing excellent crime novels and thrillers, thoroughly researched, pacy page-turners with a beautiful sense of place. So I turned to Stealing People with a huge sense of anticipation.

As I know all too well, writing a series brings its own problems. You are writing for (you hopes) both keen readers of the previous novel and newcomers, and it’s very hard to marry the demands of you to the other. How much background information does the reader need on the characters? On their roles? You don’t want to bore old friends, or leave new ones in the dark. Explanations inevitably slow down the pace – not great in a thriller. But you can’t afford not to give them. The same applies to physical descriptions of places or people.  And it’s a truism that the second in a series is always the hardest to write.

Sadly, perhaps in this book Wilson hasn’t solved all the problems. The novel’s concept, a mysterious gang efficiently kidnapping the children of ultra-wealthy globetrotters, with both the police and Charles Boxer, a spiritually damaged kidnap-victim recovering PI (technically he’s not, he works for a charity, but let’s not split hairs), vying with international intelligence agencies to rescue the victims without paying over billions of dollars in ransoms, is contemporary enough, as are the problems of an under-resourced Met. However, Wilson doesn’t seem to have enough empathy with the uber-rich (who does?) to make us care what happens to their children: we’re not let into their lives or their parents’.  After a brilliant, multi-stranded opening, promising much, we get a hundred pages of inaction – morality, policy, interpersonal-relationships. There are processions of names you can’t put faces to, and equally faceless organisations lurking behind acronyms.  At last, another kidnap!

Although we are told the action takes place with London, there is no sense, as there is in many great novels in all genres, of the location being real enough to be almost a character. There are more human characters than lentils in a dhal, but they sweep by without us getting to know them (does the writer?). We are told about relationships but not invited into them.  Sadly, this is not Robert Wilson at his brilliant best.

Anyone familiar with my reviews knows that I always try to look for positives and praise anything I can. But I’m afraid that all I can do now is suggest that you read Stealing People for yourself and hope that you enjoy it more than I did. 




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