Queen of Thieves Review

Queen of Thieves: The True Story of "Marm" Mandelbaum and Her Gangs of New York - J. North Conway

Queen of Thieves is the life of  Fredericka “Marm” Mandelbaum, a poor Jewish woman who rose to the top of her profession in organized crime during the Gilded Age in New York City. During her more than twenty-five-year reign as the country’s top receiver of stolen goods, she accumulated great wealth and power inconceivable for women engaged in business, legitimate or otherwise.


This was an impulse buy for me, because up until I saw it at Half Price Books, I had never heard of Fredericka Mandelbaum.  True crime books are my weakness, especially when I know nothing about the subject, and one of my main characters was born around this time period.  So it had three big red flags that told me this book was meant for me.  I was gong to learn something knew, read about a woman defying the traditions of the time, and manage some research for a character.  Queen of Thieves was put on the top of the reading pile.


Highlighter in hand, I started this book with so many high hopes.  Sadly it didn't take long for those hopes to start getting chipped away out.  For me things started to get a bit repetitive.  The same facts being looped over and over: the grand parties that "Marm" Mandelbaum threw, that other high society people disliked her, yet attended this parties, how she "greased" the right palms to get away with things,she started out as peddler, etc.  It felt, at least to me, like being stuck in a loop.  


Multiple times I put down the book and started others, coming back to Queen of Thieves here and there.  Only to realize that I was quick to be reminded of what I had read a few days ago a few pages later as it was once again summed it.  Which generally lead me to put the book down again.


However, once I got through the first part of the book and into the second, things got a little more exciting and found myself reading nonstop.  It was all about the thieves that had worked under Mandelbaum, how she financed their heist, helped some out of trouble, and of course how those thieves ended up. After that little section though, the books fell away from me again. The last part of the book about Mandelbaum's trial felt the same as the first half of the book.  Once again I was putting my book aside to do other things.  


I made myself finish the book though for one reason, it was well researched.  I learned quite a bit about the Gilded Age of New York City, about the corruption, the poverty, and the crime.  Those were the reason I didn't quit reading, because if I over looked the repetitive facts about Mandelbaum, I did actually learn a lot.  I just wished we'd have gotten a more in-depth look at the women herself and not just a grand overlook of her syndicate of criminals.


Another things Queen of Thieves gave me was a need to know about Fredericka Mandelbaum.  I already have a few more books lined up in my ever growing TBR pile that I hope will satisfy my curiosity about this women and her rise to criminal power.  In the end I gave the book 2 stars because it well researched when it came to the Gilded Age of New York City and really didn't hold in punches about the filth that blanket the city during those years, but it did leave me wanting just a little when it came to the women the book was about.