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The Convicts: The Curse of the Jolly Stone Trilogy, Book 1    by Iain Lawrence order for
by Iain Lawrence
Order:  USA  Can
Laurel Leaf, 2006 (2005)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* * *   Reviewed by Sally Selvadurai

Iain Lawrence's The Convicts takes the reader back to London in the early decades of the 1800s. Our hero is Tom Tin, a young lad whose family has gradually sunk from a middle class life of comparable ease to slum conditions. These privations are the result of a vendetta by well-to-do Mr. Goodfellow, who has sworn revenge upon Tom's father, a sea captain who accused him of deliberately sailing a ship that was unseaworthy and collecting on the insurance when it sank.

When Tom's father is hauled off to debtors' prison, Tom heads into London to somehow obtain the money necessary to pay off his father's debts. However, Tom loses his way in the thick London fog, ending up at the river's edge. Watching a blind man dig for treasures in the stinking river mud, he decides to try his hand at this; when he finds a goodly treasure of his own he is pursued by the old blind man, who has heightened senses and can somehow pinpoint Tom's location without the use of his eyes.

Tom escapes the clutches of the blind man, only to fall into other, more dire, situations, culminating in an appearance before a judge for murder! Found guilty, Tom is sentenced to transportation for seven years, a lenient sentence considering that murder is a hanging offence. However, the word lenient does not come to mind when we are introduced to what could be Tom's home for the next few years: he is shipped off to a prison ship, the Lachesis, moored in the river Medway, a tributary of the river Thames. This ship is home to over 400 convict boys, whose crimes range from petty theft of linens or sheep, to the murder of which Tom is accused. Each boy is told on arrival that he can remain aboard the ship for the duration of his sentence, but should he misbehave, he will for sure be shipped off to the penal colonies of Van Diemen's Land.

Tom does not fare well aboard ship, and is subsequently transferred to another rotting hulk for the long and dangerous voyage to the other side of the world. He dreams of when he can return to London to retrieve his glorious treasure, freeing his family from their debts and living the good life of prosperity that he once enjoyed.

This is the first in Iain Lawrence's Jolly Stone Trilogy. It should intrigue the reader enough to continue on to the other two books. The historical details are fascinating and any young reader will enjoy this travel back in time, and realize just how much life has changed in the last century and a half! A good choice for the young male reader.

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