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
‘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