Debut novelist Larwood introduces Sheba, a 10-year-old crime-fighting Victorian werewolf.
Sheba's lived in a dilapidated freak show as long as she can remember, displaying her furred snout and clawed hands alongside Flossy the two-headed lamb. Her purchase by a new master introduces her to the first friends she's ever had: Monkeyboy, a foulmouthed and foul-smelling tailed boy; Sister Moon, a Japanese ninja girl; Mama Rat the rat trainer; and the enormous Gigantus. Newly introduced to London, Sheba's lupine nose is nearly overwhelmed by the city's legendary stench—but it comes in handy when she and her new friends embark on a detecting mission. The poor trash-pickers of the Thames mudflats are losing their children, and only Sheba and her freak-show friends—the Peculiars—can find them. They must rescue the children from a nefarious fiend, aided only by Sheba's nose, Sister Moon's ninjitsu skills, Mama Rat's rodent sidekicks, Gigantus' fists and Monkeyboy's putrid odor. Their adventures bring them from wretched sewers and taverns to the Victorian optimism of the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace.
There’s a little too much reliance on stale tropes of fat villains and exotic (and unrealistic) foreigners, but this mystery, peppered by gentle gross-out humor, will appeal to young steampunk fans. (historical note) (Steampunk. 11-13)