Theophilus Grey and the Traitor's Mask, by Catherine Jinks

You don’t think it a rather provocative arrangement?’ the clergyman began, then broke off, frowning. He had been interrupted by a noise that made Philo’s hair stand on end.
It sounded like a wolf’s howl. Long and drawn-out, it echoed off the high brick walls that penned them in, finishing on a growling quaver.
It seemed to be coming from behind them.

Theophilus Grey is a linkboy – a boy who guides paying customers home, or across town, after dark falls on London streets. It’s the work he’s been doing for as long as he can remember, and along the way he has learnt the power of that memory. The things he sees, the conversations he hears and the people who have them, can prove to be useful, so he watches and listens, remembering everything he can.

When Philo is asked to work as a spy to gather intelligence against the Jacobites, who are plotting to overthrow King George, he has to draw on all his resources. Even then, he seems to be collecting enemies and drawing attention to himself far more than is comfortable. As the tensions mounts, Philo has to questions where his loyalties should really lie.

Theophilus Grey and the Traitor’s Mask is the second novel featuring Philo and his friends – fellow linkboys, hawkers, actors and more. Set in 1750s England, it is a satisfying blend of adventure and history, likely to appeal to upper primary readers.

Theophilus Grey and the Traitor’s Mask, by Catherine Jinks
Allen & Unwin, 2916
ISBN 9781760113612

Theophilus Grey and the Demon Thief, by Catherine Jinks

9781760113605.jpg‘The parish searcher!’ Mr Paxton exclaimed. He sat back on his heels, squinting at Philo with a quizzical look. ‘May I remind you, Master Grey, that the parish searcher is charged with identifying cause of death, for the bills of mortality?’
‘Aye.’ Philo knew that well enough.
‘Our unfortunate friend is not dead,’ the surgeon pointed out, ‘and therefore has no need of a parish searcher.’ Jumping to his feet, he added, ‘We must take him to the workhouse infirmary. Come. ‘Tis close enough.’

As Theophilus (Philo) Grey guides a new client, Mr Paxton, home, they come across the unconscious form of Jemmy Jukes. Paxton, a doctor, insists on getting help for the man, in spite of Philo’s misgivings. In the days that follow more thieves and rogues start dropping without any sign of injury or illness, and Philo and others suspect some kind of faery demon is at work. With the help of his friends – a team of fellow linkboys – and Mr Paxton, Philo is determined to uncover the truth.

Theophilus Grey and the Demon Thief is an intriguing tale set in the back streets and alleyways of Georgian London. Theo is a linkboy – making his living from guiding people home with a lit torch – and heads a team of boys who do the same, under the control of a shady, house-bound master, who uses them both to raise money and to collect information for him. The mystery of what is causing the mysterious collapse of men like Jemmy Jukes, as well as a sudden swell of crime are what drives the story, but there is additional interest from the workings and interactions of the team.

A back of book glossary and a map of old London on the inside cover will help young readers to access this gripping story.

Theophilus Grey and the Demon Thief , by Catherine Jinks
Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN 9781760113605

A Very Unusual Pursuit, by Catherine Jinks

When the bogle hissed, she knew it was caught. She knew she was safe. And she turned just in time to see Alfred strike his blow.
He speared the monster from behind, while it was still intent on reaching Birdie. But it couldn’t. The salt was stopping it. And before it could even try to retreat, Alfred thrust his staff into its flank.

Birdie’s has a beautiful voice – which is good, because it is this voice which allows her to make a living. But she’s not onstage, nor even singing on street corners or in public houses. Instead, Birdie makes her living singing for bogles. When Alfred Bunce, the bogler, needs to lure a bogle out from hiding so it can be destroyed, Birdie is the bait, singing it out of hiding. It’s dangerous work, but Birdie is happy.

But two very different women threaten Birdie – and Alfred’s – way of life. Miss Eames is a well to do lady who is intrigued by the study of bogles, and wants to learn more – but also wants to remove Birdie from the danger of the bogles’ path. Sarah Pickles is not a lady. She runs a gang of pickpockets and wants Alfred to destroy the bogle that has taken three of her best boys. But when he’s done that, she may destroy Alfred, too. Bridie soon finds that she may need Miss Eames’ help to save Alfred.

A Very Unusual Pursuit is the first in a fabulous new fantasy series from Catherine Jinks. Setting the story in Victorian London, Jinks does a superb job of bringing the time period to life, with poor houses, sewers, a grubby underworld and the contrast between rich and poor, combined with the fantastical element of gruesome, truly frightening bogles.

Whilst suitable for younger readers, the execution and subject matter mean the story will appeal to teens and adults, too.

A brilliant start to an exciting new series.

A Very Unusual Pursuit (City of Orphans)

A Very Unusual Pursuit (City of Orphans), by Catherine Jinks
Allen & Unwin, 2013
ISBN 9781743313060

Available from good bookstores or online.

The Paradise Trap, by Catherine Jinks

Marcus’s dream holiday involves staying at home and playing his favourite computer game. But when his Mum buys a musty old caravan and drags him off to the beach, Marcus finds himself wandering into OTHER people’s dream holidays – which, in addition to being bizarre, soon turn out to have a dangerous side! Accompanied by his Mum and some new family friends (including a prototype robot), Marcus unwillingly embarks on an adventure that’s more exciting than any computer game.

‘Oh, wow…’ Edison breathed.

Together he and Marcus stepped through the door onto a smooth stretch of green lawn. To their right, an enormous carousel was spinning on its mirrored axis, pumping a cheerful, chiming song. To their left, a row of painted clown heads swung from side to side in front of a wall hung with alluring prizes: plush toys, kewpie dolls, inflatable aliens…

‘Hello, Edison!’ They chorused. ‘Do you want to win a stuffed blue gorilla?’

Marcus’s dream holiday involves staying at home and playing his favourite computer game. But when his Mum buys a musty old caravan and drags him off to the beach, Marcus finds himself wandering into OTHER people’s dream holidays – which, in addition to being bizarre, soon turn out to have a dangerous side! Accompanied by his Mum and some new family friends (including a prototype robot), Marcus unwillingly embarks on an adventure that’s more exciting than any computer game.

The Paradise Trap engrosses the reader in a surreal fantasy world that, surprisingly, is almost believable. With vivid imagery and a cast of relatable characters, Catherine Jinks takes the reader on an enjoyable romp through a succession of wacky settings. An exciting read for upper-primary, teenagers, and adults alike.

The Paradise Trap

The Paradise Trap, by Catherine Jinks
Allen & Unwin 2011
ISBN 978174237574

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Genius Wars, by Catherine Jinks

‘Back seat,’ Saul instructed.
‘Oh, but-’
‘In the back, please.’
Cadel complied, mutely. He remained silent as Saul slipped behind the wheel, started the engine and pulled away from the kerb. Only when they were heading down Barker Street did Cadel finally remark, ‘You’re not sending me to a safe house, are you?’
‘I’m sorry.’ Saul’s voice was tight. ‘I have to. Prosper’s in Sydney.’
‘In Sydney?’
The news was like a punch. It was hard to absorb.

At last Cadel has a life of near normalcy. He has a family who love him, good friends and is studying at university. He thinks he can put his past behind him. But when prosper English is spotted back in Sydney, Cadel’s newfound peace is threatened. He must find Prosper before Prosper’s net closes on him, and before those he loves most are hurt.

The Genius Wars is the third and final title in the Genius trilogy and, like its predecessors, offers high-interest, high-tech action, aimed especially at tech savvy teens who will love the combination of strong, eclectic characters with at technology rich story line. Cadel and his genius friends offer a view of the world which, whilst removed from the lives of most readers, is at the same time fascinating and unpredictable. At times their insecurities and issues seem run of the mill – but at others, they are anything but.

The Genius Wars is best read by those who have read the previous offerings, Evil Genius and Genius Squad but could also stand alone.

The Genius Wars (Genius Trilogy), by Catherine Jinks
Allen & Unwin, 2009

The Reformed Vampire Support Group, by Catherine Jinks

In the suburbs of Sydney dwell a host of vampires, posing as regular humans and living right under the rest of the city’s notice. These particular vampires, however, pose no threat – they’re “reformed”, and are as far from the violent, powerful bloodsuckers we know from the movies as possible. And when one of their number is slayed in his sleep, the sickly group must go into hiding while they pursue the culprit to protect their dreary existence. In this book, Catherine Jinks subverts the traditional representations of vampires, instead presenting vampirism as “just another form of humanity” with its own set of hindrances.

With an absorbing plotline and a cast of quirky characters, The Reformed Vampire Support Group is a clever tale of identity and pushing one’s boundaries. As Nina the vampire and rest of the support group rise to the challenges of unexpected adventure, the reader is treated to a fascinating look into the lives of these characters, and Nina learns to accept and admire vampires such as herself.

An enthralling story about making the most of what you’ve got.

The Reformed Vampire Support Group

The Reformed Vampire Support Group, by Catherine Jinks
Allen & Unwin, 2009

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Dark Mountain, by Catherine Jinks

Mr Barton was being helped from the back of the dray. I could see at once that there was nothing wrong with his legs. It was the upper portion of his body that seemed to pain him. He moved stiffly, with many an involuntary wince and suppressed groan. Having reached the ground, he shook off his attendants as if the touch of their hands was entirely too much to bear.
My mother went to him, still carrying her youngest daughter. For a moment they stood together, and my mother’s hand was on his arm, and his head was bent close to her ear. Something about this attitude bespoke an intimacy that I had not hitherto suspected. Indeed, the contrast between his expression as he spoke to my mother, and his tone as he addressed the hovering servants, was startling.

In 1836 when Charlotte Atkinson’s mother rides out to inspect her property, it sparks a chain of events which dramatically change Charlotte’s idyllic childhood – and that of her siblings. Whilst the events of her mother’s journey are never fully explained, the violence which befalls her mother and her overseer, George Barton on that fateful day alter the family’s course for life.

Soon Barton is a part of the family, becoming Charlotte’s stepfather, and the family descends into financial difficulties, violence and public shame. For the rst of her long life, Charlotte is determined to unlock the sequence of events which led to her mother’s remarriage and the fracturing of the family.

The Dark Mountain is a gripping historical saga set in and around the Belanglo region of southern NSW. With bushrangers, mass murderers, family drama and the everyday difficulties of colonial life, the story is peopled with a vivid cast of characters including Australia’s first female novelist, and earliest serial killer.

Author Catherine Jinks shows her extraordinary versatility with every new offering – this time with a gothic story offering a vivid glimpse at life in colonial Australia.

A compelling read.

The Dark Mountain

The Dark Mountain, by Catherine Jinks
Allen & Unwin, 2008

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Living Hell, by Catherine Jinks

The smell was the first thing we noticed. It was a terrible smell that made us all cough; a smell of burning meat, with another stench overlaying it. Then we saw Firminus standing by the door.
He pointed.
’Something’s trying to get in,’ he rasped.

Seventeen year old Cheney has lived his whole life in peace and safety – aboard a space ship housing possibly the last humans alive, on a search for a new planet. But that peaceful existence is decimated when the ship collides with something that makes the ship come to life. Suddenly the humans are no longer travelling in a space ship – now they are inside a living being, which looks set to digest them unless they can outwit it. Under attack from machines that have now become cells and antibodies of the ship, Cheney and his friends have no where to hide and no hope of survival – unless they can outwit the ship’s massive system.

Living Hell is a thrilling young adult novel set in the distant future. It takes a familiar concept – that of a ship carrying the last remnants of the human race on a quest for a new planet – and gives it a chilling twist which is both original and well delivered. Readers will be kept guessing right till the last page and will be drawn into the character’s dilemma.

Great stuff from one of Australia’s most versatile authors.

Living Hell, by Catherine Jinks
Allen & Unwin, 2007

Elysium, by Catherine Jinks

As I approached the corner I began to slow down. I don’t know why. Perhaps because I had this image in my head: an image of a face materialising out of the darkness on the other side of the window. I didn’t want to turn the corner. I didn’t want to see anything like that.

The Exorcists’ club have been invited to attend a weekend ghost tour at the Jenolan Caves. Only Allie and Michelle can make it, but they are determined to have a good weekend, intrigued by the idea of the hotel being haunted, and mysterious figures lurking in the caves.

But Allie’s plans for the weekend don’t include trying to sort out the arguments between her parents and their new partners, or avoiding the horrible Paul, a fifteen year old with an attitude problem. And what if the ghost encounter is with a dreamtime creature that emits the foulest smell ever?

Elysium is the fourth title in the Allie’s Ghost Hunters series by the popular Catherine Jinks. The ghost mystery takes perhaps a lesser role than earlier titles in the series, but there are plenty of eerie moments and lots of action, and readers aged 10 to 12 will enjoy both.

Elysium: A Paranormal Adventure

Elysium, by Catherine Jinks
Allen & Unwin, 2007

Pagan's Daughter, by Catherine Jinks

“You’ll have to feed him, and wipe his bottom, and save him from the giant olives,” Sybille continues maliciously…
So they seriously expect me to spend the next ten years cleaning up after an incontinent old man in the middle of nowhere?
If so, they’re going to be sadly disappointed.

Babylonne has lived a hard life with her violent, heretical aunt and grandmother, who have looked after her since the death of her mother, but treat her as a slave because she is illegitimate. When her aunt decides to marry her off to an aging invalid, Babylonne decides she wants out, and runs away.

But someone is following Babylonne, and soon she comes face to face with her pursuer – a priest who says he knew her father. Can Babylonne trust Isidore, a priest who stands for so much that she abhors?

Author Catherine Jinks’ Pagan series, published in the 1990s, was an award-winning, popular story set in medieval times. Now Jinks picks up the story without the much-loved Pagan. Instead, she introduces us to Pagan’s daughter, a daughter who never met her father, yet has inherited his feisty spirit. Babylonne is a girl in a man’s world, where women are at best inconveniences and at worst, goods to be use misused at any opportunity. Isidore, who featured in the earlier books is a gentle, educated and wise man, who comes to be a father figure for Babylonne, as they form a bond.

Whilst the book details some horrific events during the bloody battles and sieges of the Cathar crusade, it is also filled with humour and action, as well as maps and inserts which provide historical information without intruding on the narrative.

Aimed at readers 12 and up, this one will please history fans.

Pagan’s Daughter, by Catherine Jinks
Allen & Unwin, 2006