Readers' Group Guide
When Alice Diamond recruits Nell she tells her: “We are skilled workers. The posh folk are pinching from us every day of our lives. They treat us like mugs. We work our fingers to the bone…We ain’t really robbing from anyone if you look at it that way. We’re helping ourselves because no one will help us.” Is there some truth to what she says, or is this attempt to justify their crimes just part of how Alice manipulates people?
Nell accepts Alice’s offer to join the gang, thinking: “Alice was offering me a different life: money, big money, more than I’d ever earned, standing on my own two feet with no man being the boss of me.” Is she joining Alice simply because pregnancy has made her desperate or does Alice tap into an aspirational streak in Nell? Is this promise of independence and security merely an illusion?
Was Nell right to refuse Jimmy’s offer of marriage? Why do you think she turned him down? What would you have done?
Alice makes sure Nell is caught shoplifting to test her loyalty but also because “If she gets time, being in jail means Nell will have somewhere safe to deliver the baby, which will be taken care of once she’s had it, in the way that’s best for the baby. That’s such a blessing for Nell.” Is Alice truly looking out for Nell and her baby? How does this scheme ultimately work out for Nell, and for Alice?
Does Alice’s backstory—about her hardscrabble childhood in Seven Dials—teach us anything new about her? How did her early life turn her into the Queen of Thieves?
When she rejoins Alice after her time in jail Nell reflects that: “Nothing ever gets handed to girls like me on a plate, I knew that well enough…this seedy place, full of people splashing their cash, might turn out to be the making of me.” Is she motivated by ambition? By her desire to take her revenge on Alice? Or both?
What did you make of Nell’s relationships with the other women who cross her path: Iris, Rose, Gypsy, Molly? Is she a good friend? How do women’s interdependence and relationships with one another drive the action of this story?
Were you surprised to learn Billy’s relationship to Alice? Did it change the way you felt about her vendetta against him? What do you make of Nell’s observation that Alice and Billy are “two sides of the same coin?”
When Nell turns down Detective Hart, she says “It’s like a cat going out with a mouse, isn’t it? You and me would never work because I will always want to steal and you are as honest
as the day is long.” Is she right? Or should she have made her escape from a life of crime with him?
What do you think the future holds for Nell and Alice and the other characters in this book? In the sequel, Queen of Clubs, what do you think might happen?