There is a real art in writing a complete, rounded and credible story within 96 pages and this is a splendid example. This latest story by Maggie Pearson is reminiscent in some ways of Leon Garfield’s Smith. The reader meets Fadge, a young petty criminal in a very good opening sequence in a London fog in 1885. Meanwhile Jack Farthing has just gone out on an errand in 21st-century England while his elderly, deaf grandfather watches a Sherlock Holmes film on television. Jack too encounters fog, and is transported back in time; he meets up with Fadge who sees the chance of a big reward. The pair encounter Dr Watson who finds jewellery stuffed in a chicken, go for the reward, and ensure the thieves are captured. The story is neatly rounded off when Jack returns home and discovers the real meaning of Fadge among other things.
The perilous position of boys such as Fadge and the atmosphere of late 19th-century London emerge clearly from the fog and the neat links with Sherlock Holmes and Jack’s ancestry are cleverly made and with humour. It is also helped by a good cover by David Frankland. It will be enjoyed by younger readers and would appeal to older boys who are less confident readers. It also reads aloud well.