F. E. Higgins
Young pickpocket Ludlow Fitch manages to escape from the dank and squalid basement where the notorious tooth surgeon of Old Goat's Alley, Barton Gumbroot, plans to extract the boy's teeth for money, assisted by Ludlow’s own drunken and larcenous parents. There's no place he can hide in the City, so Ludlow hitches a ride on the back of a rich man’s carriage. When the snoring and odious Mr. Ratchet is delivered to his opulent house in the mountain village of Pagus Parvus, Ludlow nicks the man's purse, scarf and gloves. Still needing shelter from the cold and snow, Ludlow climbs a nearby hill in the dead of night, heading for a vacant building, and that’s where he encounters the mysterious Joe Zabbidou. Because the boy can read and write, Joe takes him in and offers him a job. Joe calls himself the Secret Pawnbroker, and makes it known in the village that he will pay people money to relieve them from the terrible secrets that haunt their dreams. Ludlow's job will be to write down their tearful and guilty confessions of transgressions from grave robbing to murder, in Joe's big black book. Who is this enigmatic man who pays good money for secrets and asks for nothing in return? This Dickensian chiller, not at all suitable as a bedtime read, explores the line between good and evil. The sequel, The Bone Magician, is due out in 2008. Readers who were riveted by the scariness of Joseph Delaney's The Revenge of the Witch and others in The Last Apprentice series, are going to find this one suitably creepy.
Reviewed by : JF.
Themes : FANTASY. MURDER. SUSPENSE.
CRITICS HAVE SAID
- This polished debut from a British writer tantalizingly blends secrets and thick, evocative atmosphere . . . Higgins, framing her book as texts discovered in a hallowed wooden leg, expertly sustains the audience’s curiosity, revealing just enough information to keep readers riveted. And for all the grisly details, the novel gets at important themes about self-determination and trust. Original and engrossing.
- The story’s vaguely Dickensian atmosphere is exquisite . . . A tantalizingly revelatory ending leaves at least one thread dangling for future volumes (which are sure to evoke more picaresque oddities and nefarious tales), making this a smart, peculiarly thrilling book that is sure to appeal to readers ready to sidestep the goodygoody Harry Potters of adventure fiction.
- Higgins creates a fascinating novel peopled with colorful characters and imbued with clever plot twists . . . the novel’s climax is both excellent and surprising.
- Higgins’s fine writing and wry tale will charm readers who are ready for the unusual . . . like the film Chocolat . . . a stranger enters a town and changes the lives there forever, all from the confines of a small shop, this time a pawnbroker’s place.
IF YOU LOVE THIS BOOK, THEN TRY:
Billingsley, Franny. The Folk Keeper. Simon & Schuster, 1999. ISBN-13: 978-0747560548
Delaney, Joseph. The Revenge of the Witch. (The Last Apprentice, Book One). Greenwillow, 2005. ISBN-13: 978-0060766207
Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee. The Conch Bearer. Roaring Brook, 2003. ISBN-13: 978-0689872426
Higgins, F. E. The Bone Magician. Feiwel and Friends, 2008. ISBN-13: 978-1405090407
Hirsch, Odo. Bartlett and the City of Flames. Bloomsbury, 2003. ISBN-13: 978-1582348315
Langrish, Katherine. Troll Fell. HarperCollins, 2004. ISBN-13: 978-0060583064