Saturday, February 14, 2009

Montmorency by Eleanor Updale


Montmorency: Thief, Liar, Gentleman?
by Eleanor Updale

Trade Paperback: 233 pages
Publisher: Scholastic
First Released: 2003

Source: Bought from

Back Cover Blurb:
London, 1875. When a petty thief falls through a glass roof while fleeing from the police, it should have been the death of him. Instead, it marks the beginning of a whole new life. The thief is sewn back together by a brilliant young surgeon, and before long he's become the chief exhibit at medical gatherings across the city. It's at one of these learned discussions that he first hears about an amazing addition to the London streets--the sewer system--and an idea begins to form.

The sewers are the perfect escape route for a series of daring robberies, and the thief is the only one with the ingenuity to pull them off. He takes on two identities--the wealthy, sophisticated gentleman Montmorency and his filthy, corrupt servant, Scarper. But Montmorency must constantly be on guard. His whole life is built on lies, and the slightest mistake could betray him...

This novel is a middle-grade historical adventure that will probably appeal to boys (and girls). Details of the time period are skillfully woven into the story, and the problems Montmorency faced came from the problems of the period.

The pacing was very good. The characters were interesting and had depth. I felt Montmorency changed realistically. He's not a very nice person at first but, by the end of the story, he gains a conscience and a goal beyond indulging his desire for wealth.

There was no romance (so no sex or kissing), and I don't recall any cussing. Overall, I'd recommend this as "a good, clean fun" novel.

Excerpt: Chapter One
The pain woke him again. Not the constant throb that was so familiar he could hardly remember being without it. This was one of those sharp stabs from the wound along his thigh. Doctor Farcett had dug deep to get through to the shattered bone, and the layers of catgut stitching pulled as the torn flesh struggled to realign itself inside. After so many interventions by the keen young medic, Montmorency should have been prepared for the agony, but each time the aftereffects seemed worse, and the limited pain relief (alcohol and the occasional treat of an experimental gas) less effective.

The candle on the central table had burned almost to nothing: It must be nearly morning, but there was no sign of light through the bars high up in the wall. Montmorency knew there was no point in calling for the night guard. Marston, silent, still, and unsmiling, saw his duties in the prison hospital as strictly limited to preventing escapes. Never mind the fact that Montmorency couldn't even turn over in bed, let alone run away. He'd have to wait in the dark for the arrival of Nurse Darnley, a brusque but well-meaning woman who believed that bad people could be made good and that providing a sip of water to a sick criminal might help that process.

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