This one is a “cheater” that I read over the holidays. I’m feeling the pressure with all of the posts going up and it will be awhile before I finish that Dickens I’ve started, so….a Dickensian thriller for #1, it is. A friend recommended it to me for a good holiday read. It is a bit Christmasy in a dark, existential, pervy kind of way but apparently I like that sort of thing because it was a good read and didn’t seem to dampen my holiday spirit.
The novel imagines Timothy Cratchit (Tiny Tim) from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” as a man in his early twenties who, after his father’s death, begins to examine the man that he has become versus the boy everyone believed him to be. It is a struggle between his sainted past as a crippled child and his present as a victorian slacker. Renting a room in a brothel, Timothy lives off an allowance from his old “Uncle” Ebenezer and pads his pockets a bit with money acquired from helping to dredge dead bodies from the Thames.
Timothy’s existential quest down the dark alleys of Victorian London leads him to discover the dead bodies of two young girls and the very alive body of young Philomela, all branded with the same mysterious mark. Mesmerized by the young girl, he combs the streets first looking for her and then protecting her with the assistance of a young street urchin, Colin “The Melodious”.
Haunted by their own spirits, a la “A Christmas Carol”, the group attempts to unravel the mystery surrounding the dead girls while evading capture by a creepy female missionary and former policeman who are chasing Philomela. In the process, they begin to trust each other, and to build a makeshift family.
It is a thriller so I don’t want to give too much away, but what I really like about it, was the idea of taking a basically minor character out of a famous story and building such an interesting back story and future for him. The idea of Timothy being haunted into adulthood by this mythical “Tiny Tim” role he was encouraged to foster was pretty genius.