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.
Feiwel & Friends, 2007
Suggested Ages: 10 and Up