Sunday, August 05, 2007

Book Review: "Mr. Timothy"

Have you ever wondered what becomes of Tiny Tim after his well-known benediction at the end of A Christmas Carol? If so, Louis Bayard provides one possible answer in his Mr. Timothy (2003). Here is Timothy Cratchit in his early twenties, left with a limp, an unwelcome continued dependence on his overly-beneficent and fading "Uncle N." (Ebenezer Scrooge, of course), and strange visitations from his departed father. He earns his keep by providing reading lessons to a brothel-keeper, and assisting in the occasional late-night body-dredging operation. Such is his life, at least, until he is drawn into a frightening web of mystery, intrigue and child-murder.

Bayard assumes Dickens' mantle with creditable ability, bringing the dark, unpleasant corners of Victorian London into sharp focus. Mr. Timothy emerges as a complicated character, troubled still by the melodramatic role he felt forced into by his well-meaning father. Additional characters, from the inimitable street-rat sidekick Colin ("the Melodious") to savage former policeman Willie Rebbeck who serves as the main villain of the tale, to the declining Uncle N., are well-drawn and developed to almost a Dickensian level.

A good, suspenseful, mystery with an unmatched backstory.