Thursday, February 21, 2013


by Terry Pratchett

When I first learned that Terry Pratchett was coming out with a book featuring Dickens's Artful Dodger, I figured it would either be the story of Oliver Twist told from Dodger's perspective, or it would be the story of  Dodger's life either before or after the events of Dickens's book. Both assumptions were wrong. Instead, he takes the character created by Dickens and places him in London at the same time that the young Charlie Dickens is a reporter and up-and-coming author and has their paths cross.

During an intense rainstorm on the streets of London, Dodger , who lives in the sewers below the city, and who survives by his cunning and quick hands, witnesses a woman leap from a fast-moving horse-drawn carriage in an attempt to flee her captors, who run her down and begin to beat her. Dodger chases the men off and quickly becomes enamored with the young and attractive woman named Simplicity.

Dodger's act of heroism is witnessed by two men, Henry Mayhew and Charles Dickens. The men take her to Mr. Mayhew's home where she can be looked after and recover while they, with Dodger's help, begin investigating who the men Simplicity was fleeing from were, and why she felt the need to escape.

While assisting with the investigation, Dodger wants to make himself more presentable to Simplicity by improving his appearances. he decides to get his hair cut and chooses a "Barber and Expert Butcher" who has hung out his shingle on Fleet Street. Dodger inadvertently causes the arrest of the murderous barber, Sweeney Todd, and becomes a celebrity throughout London, which ends up hindering his investigation efforts and ultimately sets his life on a new course above the sewers he once called home.

Dodger was a good book. It lacked the usual Pratchett sense of humor, which readers of his Discworld series will miss, but that shouldn't deter anyone from reading it. He's a master storyteller, and both his usual readers as well as those who have never picked up one of his books before will enjoy this one.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

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