Child-eating bogles infest Victorian London, providing work aplenty for “Go-Devil Man” Alfred Bunce and his intrepid young apprentice, Birdie.
Singing morbid verses from popular ballads in her angelic voice to draw the shadowy creatures out of their chimneys, sewers or other lairs so that Alfred can stab them with his special lance, Birdie thinks she has “the best job in the world” despite the risk—she could be snatched and eaten if the timing is even a little off. Alas, the idyll doesn’t survive a double set of complications. First, unctuous would-be warlock Roswell Morton, out to capture one of the monsters for his own evil uses, kidnaps her and plants her in an insane asylum to force Alfred’s cooperation. Second are the unwanted but, as it turns out, saving attentions of Miss Edith Eames, a self-described “folklorist.” Her naïveté about London’s nastier stews conceals both a quick wit and a fixed determination to see Birdie cleaned up and educated in the social graces. The tale is set in a range of locales, most of them noxious and well-stocked with rousingly scary hobgoblins as well as a cast of colorful Londoners with Dickensian names like Sally Pickles and Ned Roach. It dashes along smartly to a suspenseful climactic kerfuffle as it endears its 10-year-old protagonist, whose temper is matched only by her courage in the clutch, to readers.
Jinks opens her projected trilogy in high style, offering a period melodrama replete with colorful characters, narrow squeaks and explosions of ectoplasmic goo. (glossary of slang and monster types) (Historical fantasy. 10-13)