Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Bogles Outmanned! The Last Bogler by Catherine Jinks

All at once Alfred’s voice hailed them, echoing up from the chamber beneath their feet. “Are you there, Mr. Wardle?”

“I am, Mr. Bunce.”

“Could you send them lads down? And I’ll have me sack along with ’em.”

“Yes, of course.” As Ned picked up Alfred’s sack, Mr. Wardle cleared his throat and added, “I take it you’ve found something of interest?”

“Oh, aye. This here is a bogle’s lair, make no mistake.” Alfred appeared suddenly at the foot of the stairs, his lantern raised, his long face grim. “What I don’t know is how many of ’em might be a-lurking down here. For I ain’t never seen no den more suited to a bogle’s taste, nor better laid out for the trapping o’ children. If you ask me, Mr. Wardle, there’s more’n three kids has met their doom in this rat’s nest.”

And he motioned to Ned, who reluctantly clumped downstairs with Alfred’s sack on his shoulder.

With two of Alfred Bunce's former apprentices now gone to join the bright lights of London's theatrical life, Ned is left as the "Go-Devil Man's" last bogle-bait. What he lacks in the lark-like singing voice of Birdie and the quick, acrobatic feet of Jem, the stolid Ned makes up for in his rock-solid courage and loyalty to the bogler who has saved him from the murderous hands of Sarah Pickles, who fed the babies of working mothers to bogles, and Salty-Jack, who is the underlord of the area around Newgate Prison and who has vowed to see them both dead.

But Bunce's solitary bogling trade is becoming a public utility, thanks to the plague of bogles drawn by Sarah Pickles to the central sewers around Newgate. With the knowledgeable folklorist Miss Edith Eames and city engineer Mr. Harewood, Alfred and his apprentices join officials of the Water Works in a secret association, the Committee for the Regulation of Subterranean Anomalies. Made believers in what was formerly held as ignorant superstition, the powers that be are now aware of what lurks in the underground passages of London's water, steam, and sewer system, the slithering shape-changing bogles with an insatiable taste for the flesh of young children. More and more, they seek a final solution, some form of mass extermination for the bogle plague that continues to seize children from privy, cellar drain, and chimney alike all over London.

Little-spoken but stalwart Alfred Bunce, with his circles of salt and his poisoned blackthorn spear, realizes that the success of the Committee would put an end to his livelihood, but he joins with them in their search for a way to a permanent solution to the grisly deaths of so many children. Out of loyalty to Mr. Bunce, Ned, who has little taste for the dangerous and disgusting work of bogle-killing, invariably ending with an explosion of black ectoplasmic goo, follows him into underground London, more fascinated by the steamworks and the gearing of great machines of the engineers below ground than his hair-raising job as bogler's boy. The Committee plans the great invasion of the bogles' underground lair using steam flushing and flash powder to drive them out of their weirs to be killed by a phalanx of bogle-spearing engineers, But Salty-Jack appears for one last deadly showdown with Ned and Alfred, this time high above ground in the heights of Christopher Wren's tower monument to the Great Fire of London.

In an appropriately rip-roaring conclusion to the third book in her trilogy, How to Catch A Bogle series,  forthcoming today The Last Bogler (How to Catch a Bogle) (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016), author Catherine Jinks brings it all together, her intricately drawn Dickensian characters, the deliciously delineated London setting on the cusp of transition from superstition to modernity so well portrayed in the metaphor of a changing underground London, and her rich, many-faceted storytelling that can't be beat. Rare enough is an author who can so realistically create a historical setting such as the mean streets of the Victorian city (see her glossary of underclass slang appended) and its proper-mannered society and yet blend it all with a fantastical thread of that society's dark and dangerous underbelly, the sewers and dark passages of underground London. Catherine Jinks does it all with writing that accrues suspense carefully and deliberately toward thrills and chills that keep the most reluctant reader enthralled.

And just as Dickens would have done, Jinks builds to a rousing happy ending, with young apprentices Birdie, Jem, and now Ned on their way to well-foreshadowed and prosperous futures in a bogle-free London and a well-earned retirement for the good bogler Alfred Bunce, an ending that leaves the reader both satisfied and yet sad to turn the last page on this masterfully entertaining series.

Read my earlier reviews of the first two books here.

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  • Somehow I've missed this series entirely, and it sounds wonderful! Better yet, my library has the first two books (plus a lot of her other books: how have I missed hearing about this author??) Thanks for the review.

    By Blogger Kim Aippersbach, at 1:34 AM  

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