Two brothers run away from their home after the death of their mother, when they learn of their aunt's plan to separate them. The brothers join a small group of orphans living in an abandoned movie theatre in Venice. The orphans' theatre home and all the bare necessities of their lives are provided for them by another child who calls himself the Thief Lord. The Thief Lord comes and goes as he pleases, never staying the night in the theatre, and when he comes he brings stolen merchandise and wonderful stories of the mansions and palaces he has robbed. To earn their keep, all the Thief Lord asks the children to do is to take the stolen goods to a disreputable antique dealer who acts as their 'fence,' and collect the money he offers.
A detective, hired by the brothers' aunt, discovers the location of the theatre and the brothers and, by chance, he discovers the real identity of the Thief Lord. When the orphans learn of this identity, their relationship with the Thief Lord changes. As the detective gets to know the orphans his role also changes, from their potential enemy to their friend, protector and benefactor.
During one of their visits to the antique dealer to sell some of the Thief Lord's plunder, the dealer gives the children a message for the Thief Lord: an anonymous Italian Count wants the Thief Lord to steal a particular item for him and is offering a very generous price for its delivery. This leads to a clandestine meeting between the Count and The Thief Lord and, eventually, to the home of a famous photographer who possesses the seemingly worthless item that the Count wants stolen. The robbery attempt is foiled by the photographer herself and, when she learns what it is that the children are being paid to steal, she begins to understand this mysterious Count's motive for wanting the object. The photographer tells the children a story she heard when she was herself only a child; the story involves a carousel that was stolen from an orphanage -- a carousel that is said to have magical properties. The orphans gain another ally in the photographer and together they hatch a plot to follow the Count and discover the location of the missing, perhaps magical carousel.
This report prepared by Harvey Grund
When Prosper and Boniface are orphaned, their evil aunt Esther takes both boys in but decides she wants to adopt only Bo, who's five. She plans to send the older Prosper off to boarding school. Unable to stand the thought of being separated, Prosper and Bo run away to their late mother's favorite city, Venice, where they become part of a small group of street children who live in an abandoned movie theater and help out the boy whose name is Scipio but prefers to be called The Thief Lord. Every few nights, the Thief Lord will suddenly and mysteriously appear with stolen goods which he says he's stolen from Venice's richest house. His underlings, who include a girl nicknamed Hornet and ragamuffins Riccio and Mosca, sell the goods to a crooked, greedy, selfish shopkeeper named Barbarossa.
Realizing that the boys were raised on their mother's stories of the magical Venice, Esther Hartlieb suspects they're hiding out there. In Venice, she hires a private detective named Victor to search for the boys. At the same time, Barbarossa approaches the gang with a proposition - a mysterious Count desires the Thief Lord to steal something for him. Barbarossa assumes the Count is after a precious jewel or some such, but when the children and the Count meet, he reveals to them that what he's actually after is a piece that long ago broke off from a magical merry-go-round, which has the power to make its riders either younger or older, depending on which way they ride. He points them to the house where the wooden wing is kept.
The Thief Lord has begun to plot how to break into this house, when the detective, by a stroke of great fortune, finds out where Prosper and Bo are hiding. He will also find out the Thief Lord's true identity.
This report prepared by Ann Gaines