Lynn: I never know what Catherine Jinks is going to surprise us with next. We’re had everything from vampire support groups to a space ship trying to devour its crew to the tales of a medieval page – and I’ve loved them all. Well fans, settle in because her new offering, How to Catch a Bogle (Harcourt 2013), is a shivery Dickensian treat. Well, Dickens mixed with the Grimm Brothers’ Tales – not the Disney version but the original stories where children got abandoned in the forest and fattened and roasted by witches.
Meet Alfred Bunce and his 10-year-old apprentice, Birdie. Alfred is a Bogler. His job is to kill the monsters who capture and eat the children of London. Birdie’s job is to be the bait and despite the horrible danger, Birdie thinks she has the best job in the world. Birdie has an angelic voice and she uses it to sing the bogles out of their lairs so Alfred can dispatch them. The timing has to be perfect or Birdie will be lunch but she knows that Alfred has only ever lost one apprentice. Jinks’ version of Victorian London is peopled by a rogues’ gallery of scalawags that Charles Dickens would recognize, the poverty just as appalling and the slang just as colorful. A nice touch here is that the upper classes believe the monsters are superstition and it is the lower classes who know the truth.
Enter two wonderful characters: Miss Eames, a folklorist eager to both see a bogler work and rescue Birdie from her horrifying situation and the evil Dr. Roswell Morton and his plan to kidnap Birdie and use her to lure a bogle for his own nefarious schemes. Jinks is in top form here and the story-telling is spellbinding. I couldn’t get enough of these characters, the vivid setting or heart-thumping suspense. The monsters are really scary, both human and non-human, and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. Happily this is the start of a new trilogy so there are more installments to come. Huzzah!