Synopses & Reviews
John Huffam is sure the tall man's beard is false. He's sure of little else in November 1849, the year he is fourteen, the year his father is sentenced to London's Whitecross Street Prison. andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt; Maybe the man following John -- who claims to be one Inspector Copperfield -- can explain why. Surely, Pa isn't prepared to reveal the truth, any more than the jovial bailiff, Mr. Tuckum, who knows something, but remains mum. Or the little Frenchman, Mr. Farquatt, who courts John's sister but seems most keen on Pa's work at the Naval Ordinance Office. Or Mr. O'Doul, the Irishman who insists Pa owes him the unimaginable sum of three hundred pounds. andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt; Or what of the one-legged, single-mindedly fierce Sergeant Muldspoon, John's teacher? What about the boy's great-great-aunt, Lady Euphemia Huffam, who could pay the debt but won't for reasons of her own? What about the secretive Mr. Snugsbe of All Hallows Church, who hides himself away in the City's most voluminous coat? andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt; Then there's Chief Inspector Ratchet of Scotland Yard, who is after somebody for some crime or other. True, John has a new friend and ally in Sary the Sneak...but what has even she got up her sleeve? andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt; What John learns on his own is that there's a traitor on the loose, somewhere. And he must uncover the villain -- no matter who it might be.
"'Avi lifts a few facts from Charles Dickens's biography to spin this action-packed tale of secret identities, double-dealing and betrayal, set in mid-19th-century London. John Huffam (the middle names of Charles J.H. Dickens) is 14, reluctantly attending Muldspoon's Militantly Motivated Academy, when his father (like Dickens') is sent to debtor's prison. His mother is a layabout who does nothing but complain of her husband's fecklessness, and his sister's sole concern is how this family crisis impacts her marital prospects. It's left to John to unravel a mystery involving a military invention that his father, a naval clerk, has information about and a web of foreign spies willing to pay for specifics. John is a bit too good to be true: although he's horrified to uncover his father's various deceits, he refuses to listen to his estranged, rich great-great-Aunt Euphemia bad-mouth the man ('Your shame speaks well of you,' she says, misunderstanding him). Though idealized, John is also thoroughly empathetic, a child with hefty concerns thrust upon him, unsure of who he can trust. At least one character's motivation remains murky at the end, but the twisty plot keeps the pages turning and the rich period detail as well as debut illustrator's Raude's delicate pen and ink illustrations scattered throughout places readers right in Victorian England at a time when the serialization of David Copperfield had London abuzz. Ages 11-14. (June)' Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Avi is the author of more than fifty books for children and young adults, including the 2003 Newbery medal winner andlt;iandgt;Crispin: The Cross of Leadandlt;/iandgt;. He has won two Newbery Honors and many other awards for his fiction. He lives with his family in Denver, Colorado. Visit him at Avi-Writer.com.andlt;bandgt;Karina Raudeandlt;/bandgt; lives in New Hope, Pennsylvania. andlt;Iandgt;The Traitors' Gateandlt;/iandgt; andlt;BRandgt;is the first book she has illustrated.