The Montmorency books are a must-read for anyone who likes Victorian-era style mystery.
A small-time crook is given a new lease on life by an ambitious doctor after a near-fatal fall during a break-in. Now he has learned to navigate the sewer systems to enhance his life of crime, and has created two personalities for himself. But what happens when his two sides start disagreeing with each other? The story is told from the point of view of “Montmorency,” a petty thief with more smarts than he knows. His observations on the different classes of society are amusing, cutting and spot-on by turns. The tale also has suspense: Will he get caught in his duplicity? Will he ever get rid of “Scarper” and learn to lead a respectable life?
The detail of the period – 1870s – is marvelous. The author not only captures appearances, but smells and textures. The references to the time: gas lighting, electricity being new, “La Traviata” being popular – these were well-done. I didn’t catch any historical glitches. It’s a wee bit slow at times, particularly in the beginning, but fans of detail and “buildup” won’t mind. The contrast between Montmorency at the beginning and the end is fascinating, and the commentary on the views of the wealthy are often barbed. The audio narration was excellent; Fry did a great job with the huge cast of characters before him.
Fans of “Artemis Fowl” should enjoy this, so I say, with some hesitation, any YA age. Some readers may be confused by some of the words or get bored by the beginning. But overall the language can be interpreted by younger teens (perhaps with the help of a dictionary) and there’s enough to keep older teens engaged.