Out of the frying pan -- Rae's recalcitrantly realistic novels of the Glasgow gutter -- into the fire of the Victorian underworld with its vagrant criminal population which sometimes found sanctuary with the Romanys -- thus the ""Take to a rookery"" of the title. This particular story, and all story it is however carefully attired with the non-niceties of the period, begins with cracksman Charley Cobbold's failed attempt to hold up a farmhouse. In the getaway one of his two accomplices, Badger, is wounded and imprisoned -- leaving in questionable jeopardy not only his hidden swag but also his pearl of a daughter, Sarah, the eldest of ten little beggars. Charley wants her but even more so does Cooney, the third member in the ""scrap,"" and it is Cooney who lays his hands on her before she falls into worse, to be rescued by a reformed Charley Cobbold. . . . ""You may not care a fluter's spit"" for this argot but it lends character to a novel which is further pummiced by the grittier, grimier aspects of life as it was then.