Set in the 1860s, Fingersmith is the story of two young women: Sue, raised among thieves in London, and Maud, a privileged lady raised by her uncle in the country. Sue is enlisted as part of a con scheme by Richard Rivers, aka Gentleman, who plans to secure Maud's fortune via marriage, and then have her committed to an asylum. The first part of the book describes Rivers' courtship with Maud, their marriage, and the trip to the asylum -- and suddenly things are not what they seem, and the plot goes topsy-turvy. Then Maud takes over as narrator, recounting the same events from her perspective and filling in blanks as to who knew what, and when they knew it. Not much more can be said about the plot without spoilers, so suffice to say that there are enough surprises to keep the reader on their toes, guessing at identities and truth.
Sarah Waters has written a brilliant tale of two very strong female protagonists, embellished with a number of colorful characters: Maud's uncle, whose life work is a scholarly study of pornographic literature; Mrs. Sucksby, who raised Sue and assists in running a petty thievery operation; and Rivers (Gentleman), who is as convincing as he is smarmy. I enjoyed every minute of this book; it was "un-putdownable".