The Haunting of Nathaniel Wolfe by Brian Keaney

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The Haunting of Nathaniel Wolfe by Brian Keaney

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: First in a series about a pair of teenaged spirit-aided detectives in Victorian London. Perfectly pitched at confident readers of late primary age, it's exciting and full of accurate period detail. Enjoyable stuff.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: August 2008
Publisher: Orchard
ISBN: 1846165202

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Nathaniel Wolfe is his father's assistant. Never one to miss an opportunity, Cicero, a failed music hall entertainer, has tapped into the Victorian fad for spiritualism and has set up a weekly seance in which he purports to contact the dead. The hall is packed week in week out, but of course it's all a fraud. Cicero has a plant in the audience and fills in the gaps with the acting skills he gleaned in the music halls. Nathaniel finds this difficult - the audience is often made up of London's poorest, those who can ill afford the penny entry. It rather reminded me of the National Lottery, really!

But when a reporter gets wise to the scam and things start to unravel for Cicero, a real ghost appears. Not to the fraudster, but to his son. This is a mystery that will only be solved from beyond the grave.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Haunting of Nathaniel Wolfe. The two central characters are both tremendously sympathetic and the thread joining them isn't too coincidental. Nathaniel is struggling to maintain decency, despite a dead mother and an alcoholic, abusive father. He doesn't think he's brave, but he is. His partner in spiritual detection, Lily, has equal pluck and a great deal of independence of thought.

Victorian London rises from the pages in all its dirt, poverty, and inequality. It's a vivid picture, historically accurate and very interesting. But Keaney takes pains to point out that the important things about a person are on the inside, and bear very little relation to social position. The book's morally upright adults are disparate - Nathaniel's grandfather is a wealthy man and Jeremiah is a tosher or sewer worker - as are its villains.

The writing is clear and accessible, but not simplistic. The mystery is mysterious but not obscure and careful readers will enjoy guessing what's really going on a few pages before Keaney reveals it. Fans of historical novels, mysteries, and all keen readers will enjoy it - but perhaps it's best suited to those at middle to late primary age.

Recommended.

My thanks to the nice people at Orchard for sending the book.

If they enjoyed Nathaniel Wolfe, they might also like The Doomsday Machine: Another Astounding Adventure of Horatio Lyle by Catherine Webb.

Buy The Haunting of Nathaniel Wolfe by Brian Keaney at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Haunting of Nathaniel Wolfe by Brian Keaney at Amazon.co.uk


Buy The Haunting of Nathaniel Wolfe by Brian Keaney at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Haunting of Nathaniel Wolfe by Brian Keaney at Amazon.com.

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