Top positive review
17 people found this helpful
Better than Dickens - shorter and more exciting
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.