Will 14-year-old George Found escape the noose of his nightmare? In traditional juvenile-adventure fashion, of course he will, and with a last-second reprieve at that, but this narrative is so lively and so crammed with 18th-century detail (straw man, window tax) that the familiarity of certain plot features doesn't seriously detract from the book's overall appeal. George, a foundling, begins as a strolling player in a ragtag acting troupe and ends a hero: conceiving the Bridgewater Canal, reuniting with a long-lost father, marrying the Peg of his heart. Along the way he nearly dies, learns to mine coal, keeps accounts for a duke, nurses a friend through the plague, and awaits hanging in Newgate Gaol when his employer's adversary frames him. Reminiscent of Leon Garfield's next-to-best, full of Tom-Jones-like coincidences and contemporary seams, this will keep readers going till the last mutton-fat candle bums out.