If you meet your double, does it mean one of you must die?
It’s 1936, and the youngest member of the Star Turn troupe of British juvenile performers, Ollie Pigott, sees what looks like his twin in the window of a passing train. Could it be his double, or is it just his reflection? Ollie has more pressing problems, like trying to get out of his father’s acting troupe by learning acrobatics (which will also effect an escape from his father’s abuse), so he quickly moves on. American Ralph Halvern, the boy on the other train, is the bored son of a Hollywood movie star, and he immediately becomes obsessed with his look-alike. With the help of the annoying Giselle, a puzzlingly footloose French girl, he slips away from his tutor to search for the face in the window. If the two ever meet, how will their lives change? This taxing historical mystery comes directly from England and is densely flavored with slang; though there is a glossary, it is aimed at modern British children (“Yard: An old measurement…Just under a metre”) and does little to illuminate American readers. The excruciatingly slow plot doesn’t begin until page 70, and the subsequent scenes of mistaken identity quickly become tiresome. What could have been an interesting riff on The Prince and the Pauper with a nice surprise twist instead plays fast and loose with readers’ credulity to a shameful extent.
Even Anglophiles should take pause. (Historical fiction. 12-14)