“Something for nothing – something for nothing” is the mantra that governs the life of Julius Lévy. The story begins in 1860 in France as a young half-Jewish Julius learns the ways of selling in the local market place – always getting more than you give away – “something for nothing.” As the Prussians invade France the Lévys head for the relative safety of Paris, although unforeseen events send Julius and his father heading for the relative safety of Algiers. Now orphaned Julius learns to steal, manipulate and swindle his way until he saves enough to strike out for England and the empire he feels destined to build – no matter what the cost to others around him – including his morbid obsession with his daughter.
That’s about all I’m going to tell, anymore and I’d be spoiling the story. Suffice it to say that Julius is a wholly despicable, unlikable character void of any knowledge of right or wrong . If he can’t have it then no one else can – whether it be the pet cat he drowned as a child rather than let someone else care for it.
While this third book of Du Maurier’s is still far from the excellence of her later books, it is a fascinating and disturbing read and quite amazing when you realize that she wrote this when she was all of twenty-six years old. Just be warned, Julius has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, so if you’re a reader who wants it all tied up with a pink ribbon and an HEA at the end, this probably isn’t the book for you. However, if you want a look at something besides the “romantic suspense” of Du Maurier’s later works I’d look this one up. 4/5 stars and highly recommended.