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Joe Rat    by Mark Barratt order for
Joe Rat
by Mark Barratt
Order:  USA  Can
Eerdmans, 2009 (2009)

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* * *   Reviewed by Deb Kincaid

London author Mark Barratt is a masterful storyteller who crafts a suspenseful Dickensian tale. Well-drawn depictions of London's underbelly in the 1860s combine with the author's intimate knowledge of the period's lower-class society norms and culture to create a rich sensory landscape. In it, he places Joe Rat and Bess: Joe, a tosher (sewer scrap salvager), and Bess, the daughter of a down-on-his-luck farmer. They discover they have more in common than they think, and wind up helping each other.

This is a story of a boy yearning to escape his wretched state - as well as the clutches of Mother, a crime boss. Bess's mother has plans for her as well. Bess thinks she's going to London to be a servant in a prestigious home, but her mother has deceived both Bess and her father. A nasty gang under Mother's control; a madman who screams out in the night; and a shady crook in cahoots with Bess's mom, are a few of the powerful characters challenging Joe and Bess. Joe Rat is a compelling, can't-put-it-down book. Highly recommended.

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