Hi everyone, apologies for the sporadic posting recently but things at my job have been a bit nuts. I plan on getting back to my regular posting schedule starting next week. In the meantime, let’s talk about The Holver Alley Crew.
The Holver Alley Crew, by Marshall Maresca, is a fantasy heist novel, winning it a boatload of points right off the bat. I am a huge fan of heist novels, and they definitely fall under the umbrella of my guilty pleasures. This first book in a trilogy takes place in the same universe as both of Maresca’s earlier work, following a vigilante and a detective in the same city of Maradaine. For those wondering if you need to have read all his previous work, I have not read either of his previous stories and I had no problem jumping straight into this novel. The title of the book is fairly self explanatory, and follows a group of shopkeepers on Holver Alley as they team up and try to pull off a heist, and more, in order to recover from a tragedy.
The aforementioned tragedy is that Holver Alley burns down, putting many poorer shopkeepers out of work and home, and that is where we start the novel. As in most heist novels, the team is made up of an eclectic group of people with a variety of skills and backgrounds. We have the mechanical expert, the retired spy, the sharpshooter, the muscle, the wheelman, the makeup artist, the locksmith, the chemist, and the understudy. Of the group about half have experience in the crime underworld, and half are taking their first step into the shadier side of life. It makes for a good dynamic and I enjoyed the overall synergy of the crew. What starts as a simple story about planning the heist of a statue to pay the bills morphs into a more complex plotline as the crew finds hints that their alley didn’t burn down by accident. It is fun to watch the crew plan out all of the steps of their various heists and I was fairly invested in most of the story from start to finish.
The world building felt a little sparse for me, but I suspect that is likely due to being heavily developed in earlier novels (and even without that context, the world building wasn’t bad). My one request is that I would have liked to know a little more about the aristocracy that we are intended to hate throughout the novel. The characters varied in terms of how I felt about them. Some felt really fleshed out and interesting, while others felt a little flat and two dimensional. However, I will say that the ratio of interesting to bland was in favor of the interesting. My real major complaint for the books was that it never really got me excited enough. I was invested the entire time, and enjoyed the story plenty, but I never quite felt on the edge of my seat. There was a really detailed planning sequence to the heists (which of course never go according to plan) and I think it stripped away a little bit of that feeling of “how are they going to do this” that is ever present in most heist stories, and is what keeps me coming back. However, The Holver Alley Crew has a lot of charm and spunk that made up for the missing heist elements.
I enjoyed The Holver Alley Crew, but I was a little disappointed that I didn’t enjoy it more as I tend to love books of this genre. I definitely recommend it, especially if you also love heist stories or are a fan of Maresca’s earlier work. However, I will also say I would have enjoyed it a lot more if it had a little more worldbuilding, some characters were a little more fleshed out, and the heists a little more exciting. All in all, still a fun read and I will have to check out some of Maresca’s other work.
Rating: The Holver Alley Crew – 7.0/10