Select one of the keywords
The Wild Man    by Mark Barratt order for
Wild Man
by Mark Barratt
Order:  USA  Can
Eerdmans, 2010 (2010)
Softcover, e-Book

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Mark Barratt's The Wild Man is the well-structured sequel to Joe Rat, the series set in Victorian England. Joe's mother and two siblings died of cholera; he never knew his father, who left for the military before Joe was born. Joe escaped the clutches of Mother, a notorious crime boss at Pound's Field, where he and a gang of robbers worked among the sewers. Joe and others were required to turn earnings and treasure finds over to Mother, a ruthless woman who exploits orphaned, impoverished children.

In the City of London, Joe makes his living as a sweeper, sweeping the street in front of gentry when they arrive in their carriages. When Joe attempts to sweep in front of Addison's Superior Tavern and Supper Club, where 'the rich come slumming among the poor', he is cut off by territorial bullies, Charlie and Bob. Joe moves to another part of the city, to upscale Lomesbury Square. In front of the Tower House, he has success with sweeping, and also runs errands for the housekeeper, Mrs. Briggs. It is the home of the Harvey family - Mr. Harvey is a banker and a philanthropist to Asylums for Fatherless Boys.

Charlie and Bob enter again, this time to pressure Joe to keep watch on houses to rob, ordering him to 'scope the place out for us'. Joe responds: 'I ain't comin' in on no robbery', but their threats win out. Joe sketches plans for the robbery, but when the villains enter the home, the Harvey household is ready for them, along with the police. Joe had forewarned the family and the bullies land in jail, yet it is not the end of them. Joe earns the good graces of the Harveys and staff, and is invited to dine in Tower House.

Harvey's son Alexander was expelled from school, and his misbehavior causes him to be locked in the Reformation Room for long periods, only accompanied by tutor Theobald Johnson. Alex is a bitter youngster, who takes pleasure in thoughts of getting back at his father and his favored younger sister Felicity, whom he blames for their mother's illness. Mrs. Harvey is a recluse, coming out of her room only at dinnertime, not eating, but talking softly to someone no one else can see.

After questioning the sweeper about his family, Mr. Harvey promises a search to find Joe's father. He traces the man, James Mundy, to a British army hospital in Canada. Soon Mundy is on the way to England. Mr. Harvey provides him with lodging at Lomesbury Square until he makes a complete recovery under the attention of Harvey's personal physician. Alex grows increasingly bitter, putting much in jeopardy, and forcing Joe to make a decision on his loyalty.

The Wild Man is masterfully told, overlaid with a net of mystery and mysterious happenings, with gritty characters, and filled with period language like 'a dirty tossler' and 'short shanks'. This sequel (which can be read on its own, as Barratt weaves in bits of background from Joe Rat) is character-driven with an absorbing plot. Once it takes hold, it must be read to the end, and the reader's heartbeat increases in intensity as the closing chapters approach.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Teens books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews