Stealing the Marbles by EJ Knapp (Rebel ePublishers)
The first and most important layer of any story is a well-construed, believable plot. The plot of this thriller is, well, about stealing the marbles. It took me through the first 100-odd pages to realise that ‘The Marbles’ were not pretty glass balls, but indeed priceless antique statues and friezes that are made from marble.

Although it was a little too predictable, the plot of this story was just unlikely enough to keep me intrigued and believable enough to keep me reading.

Another important layer is the development of the characters. Like them or hate them, as a reader I need to feel some emotional connection with the central players. And the character of Danny Samsel had me rooting for him all along. He is very good at what he does; he is one of the best art thieves in the world.

He has pride in his skills, and he has worked hard at becoming a Master Thief, and now he is planning the biggest job of them all. Yet he also has deep-rooted self-doubts, which steal his confidence, and threaten to destroy the one relationship that is most important to him, his love for the beautiful and passionate and talented Kastania. He is well aware of his failings though, and he struggles with the demons within.

Many books only have those 2 layers: a strong plot and a believable cast of players. Especially quick-reads, holiday paperbacks and pulp fiction, work very well on these levels. But Stealing The Marbles has more layers.

At the base of the story is the layer that tells of the so-called Elgin Marbles, priceless and historic marble pieces that were taken from the Parthenon in Greece in the 19th century by Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1799–1803, and shipped to England.

Historians disagree on exactly what happened and why, but the fact remains that they are now housed in the British Museum in London, and that the Greeks have wanted them back for centuries. EJ Knapp uses the characters in the book to debate all the sides of the issue, as indeed they have been debated about in real life over decades.

Another layer that I enjoyed very much is the beautiful backdrop of Europe in general, and Greece in particular.

The author describes in detail the beauty and splendour and culture that had the barely suppressed gypsy in me itching to travel. Although I have never been to most of the places he so lovingly describes, he paints vivid and vibrant mind-pictures that brought memories of long-forgotten happy places flooding back. It is obvious that the author has visited and loved the places he describes so very well.

Reading this book was quite a sensory experience. It has thicker, glossy white paper, and crisp black ink which, which, coupled with the knowing that the book was only released a few days ago, gave the impression that the ink was still wet.

Also, EJ Knapp’s scene-setting descriptions are vivid and intense, and engage all the senses. He not only talks about what the character sees; but describes it in detail, right down to the colours of the flowers and the table cloths.

He writes about the warmth of the sun, and the scent of the breeze and the light slap of leather shoes against cement in an alley.

The characters feel exhaustion and pain, they have feelings and morals and a conscience, and they even need the bathroom. When they discuss something over a meal, he not only mentions what they eat and what wine they are drinking, but he also describes the taste and the smell and the texture. This made me feel more involved in the story, and not just a mere casual observer.

All-in-all, Stealing The Marbles is a satisfying, well-written book. It was a pleasure to read: I could not put it down, and it left me wanting more. In fact, I want to read it again, this time to absorb the finer details. It is the debut novel from EJ Knapp, and I really hope that he will produce many others.

You can read more of Jackie's reviews on her blog over here.

Keen on reading this book? Click here to either review the book or purchase your own copy.

Have you read Stealing the Marbles yet? What did you think of it?

Sign up for women24's book club newsletter and stand a chance to win our top ten books from Kalahari.net as well as a case of wine from Perdeberg.