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Dodger    by Terry Pratchett order for
by Terry Pratchett
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Ever wonder where Dickens' Artful Dodger character (in Oliver Twist) came from? Wonder no more after you read Terry Pratchett's Dodger: He Always Comes Up Smelling of Roses ..., set in Victorian London. Though Pratchett is renowned for his brilliant Discworld fantasy series, this novel is more of a whimsical historical with only hints of the fantastical.

Chapters are introduced by summaries, starting with 'In which we meet our hero, and the hero meets an orphan of the storm and comes face to face with Mister Charlie, a gentleman known as a bit of a scribbler'. Our hero is Dodger. In the course of rescuing a kidnapped, badly beaten yet beautiful young woman, he encounters Mister Charlie, whose identity I am sure you can guess. The latter gives the young woman refuge in his home, while Dodger puts his ear to the ground (and the sewers underground) seeking information on her origins.

Dodger lives with an old gentleman, Solomon, and his dog Oman. A tosher, the youth scavenges the sewers for valuables, and he knows them like the back of his hand. When he meets his damsel in distress again, she calls herself Miss Simplicity. She has a foreign accent. The author introduces readers to a villain who seeks the young woman, and his nasty agent, Sharp Bob - they speak of calling in the terrible Outlander as a last resort. But they'll have to get through Dodger first.

His quest to save his lady leads him to an encounter with Sweeney Todd; to Parliament (where he meets Disraeli and learns who seeks Simplicity and why); to the wealthy Miss Angela Burdett-Coutts who shelters Simplicity; to a wary meeting with Sir Robert Peel, head of London's policemen; to the theatre; and back to the sewers, running a tosher tour for gentlemen. For Dodger has a plan, and the Lady of Toshers is on his side. But, as his plan nears fruition, an assassin also closes in on them - will Dodger or the Outlander win the day?

As the novel ends, Dodger embarks on a new career, Serendipity at his side. And Pratchett's signature humour is present throughout. For example, as Dodger earns money and is advised by Solomon to make sure it earns interest, he asks his mentor, 'What's money interested in?' The reply? 'More money'. I strongly recommend Dodger to both Pratchett and Dickens fans - and don't miss the 'Author's acknowledgements, embarrassments and excuses with, at no extra cost, some bits of vocabulary and usage' at the end.

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