By Tony Lee
Published by Amazon
Readily available in paperback and Kindle
RRP £4.99 Kindle
Twelve years after the events of Oliver Twist, a once more penniless Oliver travels back to London in order to try to reclaim his inheritance. After learning is claim is futile he has a chance meeting with a grown up Artful Dodger that leads Oliver into a scheme to steal a fortune and reclaim his place in society.
But as plans unfold, and friends and foes from his past begin to gather, Oliver begins to wonder if his meeting with Dodger was by chance. The deeper he becomes involved in Dodger’s plans the more he is immersed into a world he had hoped he’d escaped a decade earlier. Betrayal, deception and danger mount as Oliver begins to realize Dodger may not be the friend he makes out to be, and instead of aiding Oliver in his quest for his fortune, is in fact plotting with Fagin’s ghost for vengeance.
A maze of lies and half truths lay in wait as Oliver re-visits his birth place, Fagin’s Saffron Hill den, Sowerberry’s Undertakers and has to face his personal demons in the shape of Mister Bumble, Noah Claypole and his own guilt over Nancy’s death.
My only knowledge of Oliver Twist stems from the musical staring Ron Moody as Fagin, I’ve never read it and being honest, have never felt the inclination to read it. Due to a twitter post I did however come across mention of this book by Tony Lee, and will say I was intrigued. After reading this I will say I was surprised by what a dark piece this sequel paints the original to be, I was also compelled to get a copy of Oliver Twist downloaded to my Kindle, but more of that another time, onto the sequel.
The world Lee paints is very vivid; he has obviously gone to a lot of trouble to research the subject matter – evident by the lengthy acknowledgements section – to make sure the feel of the story sits well with the time. Victorian London is a dark and foreboding place, as much a character in the story as the human ones. The dirty streets, the people crammed in living on top of each other all go to make an interesting brew that makes the scenery come alive around the characters.
As for the two main characters, Oliver is very much the Oliver I remember from the musical. Now I can imagine that this take on the character may be nothing like what Charles Dickens intended, but here Tony Lee writes him as a wide eyed enthusiast, willing to give the benefit of the doubt. But he is also very much a victim. A victim of the time he lives in, and of those around him who being more wise to the ways of the world, take advantage of his good nature. Jack Hawkins – or as he is known on the streets, the Artful Dodger – is on the surface a nasty piece of work, through manipulation of events and people he steers Oliver into his seedy world for his own ends. Bit part players from the original like Noah Claypole and Charlotte have a part to play, both in Dodger’s plans and in Oliver finding some sort of closure for the early years of his life. And there is some chance for Oliver to put the ghost of Nancy to rest in the form of her young sister.
The plot is ingenious and complex, but in some ways can come across as a bit daft. An end game that has been in the planning stages for years all hinging on the correct people, being in the correct place, at the correct time. And we are asked to believe Dodger managed this having been away from the country for the better part of a decade. But if you put aside any forms of logic, and read the story as a ripping adventure yarn it works totally and is fully enjoyable.
The colourful characters move the plot along at a swift pace, it twists and turns as much as the dark alleys it is set in so the reader is left wondering what will happen next.