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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 21 February 2009
"He was called Smith and was twelve years old. Which, in itself, was a marvel; for it seemed as if the smallpox, the consumption, brain-fever, gaol-fever and even the hangman's rope had given him a wide berth for fear of catching something. Or else they weren't quick enough."

This is our introduction to Smith, a pickpocket, and the 18th Century London in which he lives.

The story begins with Smith picking the pockets of a 'country gentleman', only then to witness that gentlemen being murdered, for something he was thought to be carrying. But Smith now has that something, a document, and he sets out to learn to read it, and to solve the mystery of the murdered gentleman, while avoiding the killers who are on his trail.

There is an array of charaters - conspiring lawyers, a blind magistrate, murderous villains, highway men - and as with Dickens, places become characters too - Newgate Gaol, the City of London itself. The language is a wonder, to be relished - evocative, compelling, and always humourous - lightly ironic or downright comic. Rather like Smith himself.
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on 15 April 2010
I read Garfield's novel as a child in the seventies and found it enchanting. It took me away from 20th century post-industrial Scotland and completely submerged me in the world of 18th century London. Quite an achievement! Ever since I have enjoyed the history of that period and reading 18th century writers such as Fielding.

Strangely 'Smith' has the feel both of the 1700s and of the 1960s in which it was written just as 1963's classic film version of 'Tom Jones' looks sumptuously authentic and yet retains a certain sixties sensibility. These two periods are my particular favourites so that explains much of my enjoyment of Garfield's work but he was also a supremely skilled writer, a painter of worlds using words.

The one star review by 'CJ' posted here misses the point to some extent: Garfield's major skill was in writing beautifully descripitive passages; they are wonderfully evocative and take the reader on a journey through time that is simultaneously charming, convincing and achieved with marvellous deftness. He told a great yarn too but it is his utterly brilliant descriptive passages that enchant. To call it boring misses the point that Garfield has recreated the pace of life in that period. And he does it with such subtlety that some readers may mistake it for a lack of action. After all this was a time when the fastest transport on land was the horse. It is easy for modern readers to forget that the world was not always such a frenetically information-overloaded place and Garfield transports us with amazing skill to a time before all this madness.
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on 6 March 2014
I picked up this book at a jumble sale and its such a favourite that I have now downloaded it on my kindle. Its not just a kid's book its an all-age book. Smith, a sort of Artful Dodger, pickpocket's an elderly man and then witnesses his murder. He recognises that the document he has stolen is important, but he can't read! There is humour; courage; persistence; unexpected friendships; betrayal and triumph. There are enough twists and turns that we could all get lost in if the path wasn't set out for us.
A real gem
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on 12 July 2014
I really enjoyed this book and would recommend Smith to anyone who likes mystery, deception and excitement. I admit that I got slightly bored for a bit, but later this part was incredibly useful. This book is not like the (mostly) modern books I usually read, but I liked it anyway. The author, Leon Garfield, had a way of weaving everything together at the end, similar to a mind puzzle, but more complicated.
Leon Garfield had some amazing description and language; I learnt a lot of new words reading Smith. One of my favourite passages from this book is : "They followed him for about five minutes along the nearly empty Saffron Hill. Then they lost him. He seemed to have vanished into the gloomy air. Half a minute later he was seen - unexpectedly - on their left, at the corner of Cross Street, hurrying like a mad thing. They nodded and set off again." This paragraph is,in my opinion, very exciting.
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on 10 July 2012
This book has all the elements of a classic, which is what it has become. I don't need to defend that view particularly - the book was written in the 1960s and it is still being read today, so clearly generations have loved this children's book.

Smith is a London pick pocket in the 18th century. He has made it to the age of 12 without being caught or otherwise killed, but then one night death pays a visit close to him as he witnesses the murder of the man he pick pocketted some 15 seconds earlier. Unwittingly Smith has stolen the very document the murderers would kill for and events tumble headlong towards their inevitable and wonderful conclusion. On the way there is a good deal of humour and intrigue, and the book is very readable.

Because it was written in the 1960s this book does show its age a little in the style of writing. Nevertheless in this story, that perhaps adds something to the setting. There were a few inconsistencies in the style (particularly the cockney dialect used), but despite a few blemishes this is a book that children aged 9 or 10 upwards could really get into and enjoy. It also does not disappoint adult readers.
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on 14 May 2013
I read this book because we are doing the play version and I wanted to get a head start on the others. I have to say it is a great read. They way he has typed the words is the way they are pronounced in the cockney accent. I highly recommend it :)
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on 11 May 2011
I read this when I was 13, and I have to say that it is just as good now as it was then. It's a superb book that I believe reflect life at the time quite accurately.
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on 26 May 2015
An unexpectedly good thriller through eighteenth century London and its surrounding countryside. Garfield, whose prose compares with Dickens,has you wanting to read every next page.
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on 16 January 2013
great service , very friendly,and true to there word ,will be using again , and recommending to friends and family
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on 17 March 2013
l remembered reading this book when it was first published and enjoying it, l reread it and enjoyed it even more.
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