Nathan has always feared his strange Uncle Jago, royal vermin catcher. When his family dies of typhoid, he is forced to live with his uncle, who turns out to be a nastier and more dangerous character than Nathan suspected. There seems to be no release from his miserable life, until he meets Sam, a boy unlike any other he's ever known. Sam is confident, outrageous, and always has a plan....and his latest plan involves Nathan in a lengthy deception, a strange school, and a mysterious scientist hidden in a tower.
There's a distinctly Dickensian flavor to this intermediate story. The grotesque characters don't have the humorous edge of Dahl's villains, but the dark, gritty underside of a Dickens portrait. Nathan's strange new school and the lingering menace of his uncle hold the reader breathless through the rather thin plot until reaching the satisfying although somewhat unbelievable conclusion.
Verdict: Elboz is a popular author of beginning chapters and intermediate fiction and fantasy in Britain. This fun adventure is worth doing a little digging to find for your American readers, especially those who enjoy stories of luckless orphans and zany adventures.
ISBN: 978-0192753281; Published November 2003 by Oxford; Received through Bookmooch