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The Library Thief: A Novel
Kuchenga Shenjé


A strikingly original and absorbing mystery about a white-passing bookbinder in Victorian England and the secrets lurking on the estate where we she works, for fans of Fingersmith and The Confessions of Frannie Langton

The library is under lock and key. But its secrets can't be contained.

1896. After he brought her home from Jamaica as a baby, Florence's father had her hair hot-combed to make her look like the other girls. But as a young woman, Florence is not so easy to tame—and when she brings scandal to his door, the bookbinder throws her onto the streets of Manchester.

Intercepting her father's latest commission, Florence talks her way into the remote, forbidding Rose Hall to restore its collection of rare books. Lord Francis Belfield's library is old and full of secrets—but none so intriguing as the whispers about his late wife.

Then one night, the library is broken into. Strangely, all the priceless tomes remain untouched. Florence is puzzled, until she discovers a half-burned book in the fireplace. She realizes with horror that someone has found and set fire to the secret diary of Lord Belfield's wife–which may hold the clue to her fate…

Evocative, arresting and tightly plotted, The Library Thief is at once a propulsive Gothic mystery and a striking exploration of race, gender and self-discovery in Victorian England.


Kuchenga Shenjé is a writer, journalist and speaker with work on many media platforms, including gal-dem, British Vogue and Netflix. She has contributed short stories and essays to several anthologies, most notably It’s Not OK to Feel Blue (and Other Lies), Who’s Loving You and Loud Black Girls. Owing to a lifelong obsession with books and the written word, Kuchenga studied creative writing at the Open University. Her work is focused on the perils of loving, being loved and women living out loud throughout the ages. The Library Thief is the ultimate marriage of her passions for history, mystery and rebels. She currently resides in Manchester, where she is determined to continue living a life worth writing about.


"Powerful, sagacious and warm, The Library Thief is both a gripping, multi-layered mystery and a gorgeously absorbing novel that demanded I return to its pages whenever I had the audacity to set it down. Without a doubt, Shenjé's wholly original debut has bestseller written all over it." -- Joanne Burn, author of The Hemlock Cure
"A compelling novel that starts as a mystery and grows into a coming-of-age story, examining identity, belonging, loneliness and friendship within the restrictive and stifling world of late Victorian society. The Library Thief is filled with fantastically drawn characters and with a love of books that shines through the prose." -- Katie Lumsden, author of The Secrets of Hartwood Hall
"A tantalizing read that swells with secrecy and intrigue. It's hard to believe that Kuchenga Shenjé writes of the past, and not of the present. A beautifully and skillfully written debut." -- Candice Carty-Williams, bestselling author of Queenie

"If this book's a thief of anything—it was my attention. I was hooked, the story opening with the tantalizing traditions of a gothic mystery and then unfurling in unexpected directions, threading themes of identity, sexuality and a woman's impossible choices into an intricate web of mysteries that would not let me go." -- Cari Thomas, international bestselling author of Threadneedle
“In her debut novel, Shenjé rightfully joins a distinguished line of authors who love books and secrets and know exactly how to combine the two.” -- Booklist

"Shenjé shines a light on LGBTQIA+ love and people of color in Victorian England... Fans of Sarah Waters and Bridget Collins might have in Shenjé a new author to add to their TBR lists." -- Library Journal

[H]  Hanover Square Press  /  May 07, 2024

398 pages