Rogues and Company

I’m acting as faculty advisor this year for a club that meets in the evenings, which means I have three and a half hours to kill after school once a week. Rather than spend the entire time on lesson planning, I’ve rediscovered Google Books. I read a few things on Project Gutenberg in college, but I can only take so much of that typewriter font. Through Google, it actually looks like a book! I can download it as a pdf and read it right from my laptop.

Rogues and Company, by Ida Alexa Ross Wylie, is a title I had jotted down after seeing Melody’s review on Redeeming Qualities. None of these books have summaries, and I’ve stumbled upon clunkers by picking based on title (nothing personal, Lynn C. Doyle), so I tend to just go with books that I’ve read something about and know I will like.

It begins with a man who has amnesia, discovering himself on someone’s doorstep in the beginning of the night. The constable he finds takes his to the home of the doctor down the street, where the doctor declares it a most interesting case. The man’s clothes and his time and place of discovery suggest a person of ill repute, but his manner and personal cleanliness hint at a higher station. The man himself feels polite and educated, and accustomed to comfort.

The constable comments on his striking similarity to Slippery Bill, the notorious gentleman thief and master of disguise who robbed the doctor’s house that very night. Secretly, the patient has discovered in his coat what is supposedly the lucky charm of the criminal, and is horrified at the thought he might be the rogue. On the other hand, a visiting Frenchman, Count Louis de Beaulieu, also seems to have gone missing. The count’s housekeeper insists that the patient is not he, but then the count’s fiance Theodora turns up and makes a positive identification.

The book keeps us guessing for a while as to which identity is really the patient’s, or if he is simply a doppelganger. I loved all the twists and turns in the plot, too; it seemed like there was a new surprise in every chapter. There’s a romance, of course, between the patient and Theodora, and a little bit of personal distress over falling in love when you’re not really sure you are who you say or think you are. There are some fun characters that turn up on a trip to France, too. Everything turns out all right in the end, though maybe not in a way you might have expected.

Identity, both unknown and mistaken is such a fun plot device. I’d love to see either a movie of this or a modern take on the story, though with the prevalence of images in today’s digital and social media I think identity would be very easy to establish.

Published in: on November 23, 2011 at 11:39 am  Comments (1)  
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  1. […] I found a few, though The Scoundrel and Virginie turned out to be the same book. On the heels of Rogues and Company, I guess this makes me quite adept at choosing books with dastardly […]

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