Dodger of the Dials by James Benmore

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Dodger of the Dials by James Benmore

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Louise Jones
Reviewed by Louise Jones
Summary: A grown-up Artful Dodger makes a deal with the devil which sees him framed for murder and facing the gallows. Surely only a 'twist' in the plot can help him now...
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: June 2014
Publisher: Heron Books
ISBN: 9781780874685

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Dodger is back! And oh, how I've missed him! Benmore’s excellent debut novel Dodger left me hungry for more Dickensian escapades and it was with greedy anticipation that I began the sequel, Dodger of the Dials, eager to see what our eponymous hero had been up to in the two years since his last adventure. Quite a lot, it would seem, as Dodger has reclaimed the coveted spot of ‘'Top Sawyer' and has a gang of his very own, as well as the heart of the fair Lily, the new lady in his life.

Of course, this being Dickensian London, drama is never far away and Dodger makes an unwise alliance with a master criminal that leaves him seriously out of his depth. The repercussions of this bad decision reverberate throughout Seven Dials and soon Dodger and his friend Mouse find themselves in Newgate Prison, facing the gallows for murder. Escape seems impossible, with crooked turnkeys watching his every move and rumours of an intimidating fellow prisoner, the 'Rum Mort' who is feared by all and watches everything.

The book is a gripping, fast-paced adventure with memorable moments, both light and dark. The characters are wonderfully written and have depth and personality which make the reader care deeply about what happens to them. Dodger Jack Dawkins is exactly how one would imagine the grown up Artful Dodger to be; an expert housebreaker, pickpocket and escapologist with one Achilles heel: his conscience. Dodger’s morality is the backbone of the story; he can justify stealing from people, but he doesn't believe in violence or killing. This is an interesting premise and one reason why the character is so appealing. As the story progresses, we are also reacquainted with other memorable characters, both from the previous book and also from the original Oliver Twist novel, but to reveal more than that would be a major spoiler...

Dodger of the Dials is a real treat and I found it even better than the previous book, which I loved. Benmore has matured as an author and the quality of his writing shines through. My only minor criticism is that I didn't like the character of 'Tom', the female member of Dodger’s gang who likes to dress and act like a boy and doesn't like people to use her real name. It was all a bit Famous Five for my taste. Everything else; the characters, the writing style, the pace and the settings was absolutely perfect and I couldn't ask more from a book.

To Benmore, I make this humble request:

Please sir, I want some more.

This is a great standalone novel, but if you want to get the most out of the book and learn about the background of the characters, it is probably best to read Dodger first.

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