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by Judith Heneghan

Age Range: 11 - 13

Pub Date: April 30th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-8234-2150-3
Publisher: Holiday House

An orphaned young student of legerdemain sets himself to unraveling a once-wealthy family’s deadly squabbles in this rough-edged but promising debut. Chafing at his miserable existence as the ward of a stumblebum sideshow conjurer, Jago overhears a conversation that leads to his discovery of a gold watch with a note tucked inside, and then on to a secretive maid, her gentleman lover, a beautiful schemer, a brutish con man, hidden treasure and all sorts of chases, captures, escapes, clues and twists. It all leads from the squalid back alleys of Winchester to a properly melodramatic denouement aboard a storm-tossed ship headed for Brazil. The author isn’t always careful with details in this tale of 19th-century England (there’s an anachronistic reference to a 20th-century typeface, for instance) and she never gets around to giving Jago a credible motive for poking his nose into the entire dangerous business, but she does fold in several surprises and deftly incorporates Jago’s skills at misdirection and sleight-of-hand. (Historical fiction. 11-13)