Mister Creecher by Chris Priestley
|Mister Creecher by Chris Priestley|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Superb "interlude" in the story of Frankenstein's monster. Chris Priestley just gets better and better. Highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: October 2011|
|External links: Author's website|
Longlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2013
Ooh, ooh - two Frankenstein-related books one after the other! More of that in the further reading at the end. Mr Creecher isn't a retelling, a sequel or a prequel; it's an interlude, set midway through the events of Mary Shelley's novel.
It's Regency London, the Industrial Revolution is beginning to crank up, and Billy is an orphan and pickpocket trying to survive in the grimy streets. About to rob what he thinks is a corpse, Billy is set upon by some acquaintances to whom he owes money. Before Fletcher's knife prises out Billy's eye, the corpse - not a corpse at all, in case you didn't guess - comes to his rescue. This huge, shambling man is not a pretty sight. But he has a job for Billy. Mr Creecher has come to London on the trail of Victor Frankenstein, with whom he has a bargain. And he needs Billy to follow Frankenstein to make sure he doesn't renege on the deal.
It's a dark path they'll be heading down and after it neither Billy nor Creecher will ever be the same again...
This being Chris Priestley, there's a twist in the tail - which I didn't get even though the press sheet drops a more-than-heavy hint. I won't drop even a light hint but make sure you pay good attention. The Shelleys aren't the only writers to get a nod in this book.
I think Mr Creecher is a true homage to the original: it combines a Gothic chill with a Romantic appreciation of nature, it makes clear that a monstrous appearance does not necessarily a monster make, and it has that crushing sense of abandonment and loneliness that makes the Shelley novel so unforgettable. The relationship between Billy and Creecher also adds real dramatic tension to the story - there is a struggle for power going on, even as they begin to grow closer. Can these two damaged individuals ever risk a real and lasting friendship or have the events of the past left them loners forever?
The book also has a wonderful sense of time and place, from the misery of early industrial London to the wild freedom of the north country so loved by the Romantics. The descriptions are so vivid that you can almost smell them.
I'm a big fan of Chris Priestley. He's bringing truly classy horror to the teen market and he's developing ways to explore it that combine the traditional and the modern. In a YA genre flooded with some distinctly mediocre offerings, he's a breath of fresh air - or perhaps that should be a rancid stench of ectoplasmic miasma. Or something.
Mr Creecher isn't the only fandabbydozy book riffing on Frankenstein out this autumn. You shouldn't miss This Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Oppel, a prequel to the classic Shelley novel, which is absolutely marvellous.
You can read more book reviews or buy Mister Creecher by Chris Priestley at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Mister Creecher by Chris Priestley at Amazon.com.
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