Set in 1882, this story is told by David Wildeblood, forced off his career path by an indiscretion that landed him in prison, who becomes a journalist in London. It is also, and even more pertinently, a story of poverty, starvation, villainy and corruption, as David finds as he walks the streets of Somers Town, painfully learns the ways of the place and the argot, and gradually discovers the ploys of criminal landlords who have thought up a great racket for defrauding their tenants, tearing down houses without thought of relocating those tenants who have little to look forward to except the workhouse.
Or not really without thought. Hand in hand with the property scams goes a scheme to remove the 'undeserving' poor from the streets of London where they are seen as a threat to the rich, to sinister new communities in the countryside. David is horrified and at considerable personal cost begins to fight the landlords.
This is a good story, exciting and moving, and though sometimes it begins to read as rather dry social history, it always has the element of surprise and an engaging set of characters, from David himself, Jo the coster monger and his sister Roma, and Henry Marchmount, the newspaper proprietor too fond of gambling, to upper class Kitty and her father, David's godfather, and to the people of the streets, including tragic Mrs Nicholls and the happy wanderer William Duckenfield.
It is too easy to forget how, relatively recently, the warring worlds of the British upper and underclasses had reached such depths. For all the poverty and crime the residents of the slums clung to what they knew and were terrified of upheaval and change.
An excellent and extremely thought-provoking book. The detail is often horrific; the reality must have been appalling.