A dash of Dickens, a little George Gissing, a large portion of well-researched and well-reproduced Victoriana, some Charge of the Light Brigade realism--and Siegel (Four Doctors, The Jurors) sends a very pure and artificial hero off to star in this faithful but rather lifeless period piece. Born Richard Ramsay, O'Boy--a fractured version of his mother's name O'Bois--begins his picaresque journeys when, having been relentlessly bullied by Peter, the local landlord's son, he loses his patience and fights back. His choice of punishment? Either jail or the military. O'Boy chooses the army and winds up in the Crimea--cholera, near-amputation, even a flogging by his unshakable nemesis Peter, now an officer. But he survives and returns to England, to London, where a career with the police as a detective appeals to him. Siegel is thus able to roam his O'Boy through the squalor of underclass London--the ratting pits, the costermongers, toshes, ponces, beggars, sailors, tarts. And one of the tarts gets murdered--what's more, she's a girl Richard knew from his youth, now come to a bad end. So guess who O'Boy's investigation to find the murderer turns up as a suspect? That's right: old rotten Peter himself. Pleasant and shapely--but essentially just a careful pastiche that never quite takes on a style or tone of its own.