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The Traitors' Gate    by Avi order for
Traitors' Gate
by Avi
Order:  USA  Can
Atheneum, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Traitors' Gate is a spy story (with a strong Dickensian flavor) set in 19th century London and starring fourteen-year-old John Huffam. John's father works as a clerk in the Naval Ordinance Office, and the story opens with a mysterious meeting and hints of a traitor in that office, a clerk selling plans for a powerful new weapon to the highest foreign bidder. Soon afterwards, the elder Huffam is arrested for debt (owed to Finnegan O'Doul) and he and his family moved to a sponging house, the Halfmoon Inn, run by the parish bailiff.

Everyone - from his father and mother to their Irish housekeeper Brigit and the sponging house owner - tells fourteen-year-old John that he's the family's only hope (the parents and elder sister all seem remarkably inept) to get out of this situation. His father sends John to plead with a rich elderly relative, Lady Euphemia, to pay the debt. He finds himself followed by an engaging orphan, Sary the Sneak, whose own father has been transported to a penal colony in Australia, and who takes jobs for all and sundry, saving her money in order to help her father or join him overseas.

As John and Sary investigate, a variety of suspects emerge - including Irish, French and Russian spies - as do Scotland Yard inspectors working the case. John learns that his father has frequently lied to him and that few can be trusted. He takes seriously an Admiralty clerk's advice: 'The more a sailor knows about his captain, the more he'll know how he'll weather the gales' - and there's stormy weather ahead. Enjoy The Traitors' Gate for its well developed historical setting - the descriptions enhanced by black and white drawings scattered throughout - and an absorbing mystery with a surprise ending.

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