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Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Theophilus Grey And The Traitor's Mask by Catherine Jinks. Crow's Nest:Allen And Unwin, 2016

In Theophilus Grey And The Demon Thief, we met twelve year old Theophilus, mostly known as Philo, who was a link boy, a job that involved carrying a torch and escorting clients late at night through the mostly unlit London streets to wherever they wanted to go. Because of this, he and his team knew their part of London like the backs of their hands - and were likely to pick up information that could be sold by their master Garnet Hooke to the magistrates, especially one Henry Fielding, whom older readers probably know best as the author of Tom Jones and Joseph Andrews. Philo was trying to find out why a bunch of criminals were being found unconscious without a mark on them.

That one might have been a fantasy novel; this one definitely isn't. It's a piece of straight historical fiction, set in the time when the Jacobites were plotting against King George, in hopes of bringing Bonnie Prince Charlie to the throne. A few months after the events of Demon Thief, Philo, now the leader of an independent team of link boys,  is workíng for the government as a spy. He doesn't like it much. It's not only dangerous, it's not moral, in his opinion. But he has a number of reasons for keeping going and he has made a new friend, apart from the delightful Dr Paxton, a surgeon whom he met in the last book, who is teaching him to read. His new friend is Mrs Cowley, an actress who is also doing some spying, who is teaching him to play a role. 

So, who is Mr Bishop, who is sending him on jobs? Is he all he says he is? Is Bishop even his real name? What does he have in mind when he sends Philo to St James Palace?

Again, we have a story along the lines of Leon Garfield's Smith. It feels like history. The streets are filthy, as are the places where the characters have to live, and you have a young boy who has to do the work of a man. The streets at night are dark! In the previous book the link boys were competing with the new lamp lighters, but those don't get a mention this time. So, yes, people who want to be lit on their way home late at night can hire a link boy, but the link boys presumably have to get home on their own. 

Mrs Cowley is a sympathetic character; she is clever and makes good use of her acting skills in her job, and to help Philo. We see some more of Dr Paxton and Henry Fielding makes an appearance in his job as a magistrate, though it does mention briefly that he is also a writer. 

If you enjoyed the last book, this one won't disappoint.

Available on line from Booktopia


Unknown said...

I love it when books (and movies) try to be accurate in their depiction of historical times. Few understood what germs were or worried about food going bad. Things were dirty, unsanitary, and very hard to live in. And yes, children were treated like adults and sometimes slaves. I'm glad this author did things right, especially with the dark scary setting!

Sue Bursztynski said...

Yes, she's a very good writer, and not only for this era. The Pagan series is set during the Crusades and the Cathar thing, and it's just as believable.