The Dangerous Discoveries of Gully Potchard by Julia Lee

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The Dangerous Discoveries of Gully Potchard by Julia Lee

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: Gully knew things were going to go wrong the minute he bumped into one of the bad boys from his old school. But he could hardly have imagined the life and death struggles he would endure in this rollicking Victorian adventure.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: August 2014
Publisher: OUP
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780192733696

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Gully never intended to get into trouble. At the beginning of our story he has a good job as a delivery boy and a safe, secure home with a loving family. But a single action can have a multitude of effects, and being forced by Nathan Boldree and his gang to take part in their latest scam soon has Gully fleeing his home. He takes refuge from the villains with his uncle on the Isle of Wight, but even there danger and menace pursue him.

This delightful and energetic story employs many of the devices used by Victorian authors like Dickens. To begin with, like in Julia Lee's award-winning previous book The Mysterious Misadventures of Clemency Wrigglesworth a wide range of people appear, some funny, some intriguing and some downright nasty. Many of them have their own adventures during the course of the story and while having so many people necessarily means some depth of character is sacrificed, together they bring liveliness, colour and humour to the book. In fact, several of the characters from the previous book turn up here again, including Gully himself. The main plot, which centres on our hero's efforts to avoid being dragged into a life of crime, is complemented by a whole clutch of smaller ones, many of which eventually come together in one glorious finale where, in true Victorian fashion, the villains are roundly vanquished and the good prevail.

As in many books by Dickens and others, there is a vivid sense of atmosphere too. Gully belongs to a family which has close ties to the theatre and music halls – there are dancers, at least one budding actress, and a landlady who once wore tights and spangles in a touring magic act. Indeed, some of these skills are needed to save Gully and his friends from their troubles, and even to save the life of a young maiden who ends up, in true Victorian fashion, in deadly and apparently hopeless peril. There are countless small details which set the scene throughout the book, including family life below stairs in a rather drab boarding house in Southampton, the arrogance of elder brothers towards girls, and even a wonderfully dramatic storm at a crucial juncture in the plot.

While the book conforms to the tradition of having a hero separated from his parents, Gully is not an orphan. In fact he is a loved and valued member of his extended family, and the various exchanges between the family members adds a freshness and warmth to the book which will enable young readers to identify even more readily with our hero. When Gully is in trouble he is able to call on his cousins for advice and favours, which is just as well as the gang's plans, which begin with dognapping, soon become much more dastardly as the different strands of the plot come together. This is a book filled with mystery, dark humour and skulduggery, and it is likely to appeal to any young people who enjoy reading about courageous young heroes and the sinister villains who try (and, of course, fail) to defeat them.

Another excellent story with a large cast of characters set in Victorian times is A Boy Called M.O.U.S.E by Penny Dolan. Bookbag also thoroughly enjoyed Slightly Jones Mystery: The Case of the Glasgow Ghoul by Joan Lennon and The Case of the Hidden City by the same author.

Buy The Dangerous Discoveries of Gully Potchard by Julia Lee at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Dangerous Discoveries of Gully Potchard by Julia Lee at

Buy The Dangerous Discoveries of Gully Potchard by Julia Lee at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Dangerous Discoveries of Gully Potchard by Julia Lee at


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