Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
First published (separately) in England in the 1990s, these two novellas showcase Pullman's (The Golden Compass) gift for slapstick. Set in London in 1894, both stories feature a likeable gang of would-be detectives led by preteens Sam, nicknamed Thunderbolt for the "colossal blow" with which he knocked out a ruffian who made a nasty remark about his late mother, and Benny, who fancies himself the brains of the operation. In "Thunderbolt's Waxwork," the gang must clear Sam's father from suspicions that he's been manufacturing (and circulating) counterfeit coins. In "The Gas-Fitters' Ball," the gang's investigation of a theft becomes entangled with their mission to get a shy (adult) friend to propose to his longtime paramour. The comedy is broad, with a distinct British accent, but readers will find affinity with the gang's aim to lead more exciting lives, especially when that requires skipping school to solve a crime ("[M]ost of them regarded the School Board as the slow-witted opponent in a delightful game, and played hookey at the slightest opportunity"). The trim length and ample hijinks make either story a good choice for classroom reading. Ages 8-12. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Two 1994 novellas--Thunderbolt's Waxwork and The Gas-Fitters' Ball--plunge readers into the colorful melee of 1894 London in this satisfying, slapstick U.S. debut starring the intrepid boy and girl detectives of the New Cut Gang. Counterfeiting sixpences is "a low, sneaking, sniveling sort of crime," as it hurts the poor the most. So when Thunderbolt Dobney sees his own father hauled off to jail for what he thinks must be "coining," he feels sick inside. Justice prevails when, through a series of outrageously elaborate hijinks, he and the New Cut Gang expose the real criminal. Why a host of crooks is after the unsettlingly hideous wax-headed dummy of Dippy the hot-chestnut vendor is an entirely different case to crack. In The Gas-Fitters' Ball, the New Cut Gang is just lamenting the recent lack of crime in London when the Gas-Fitters' Hall is burgled. No Swedish match or drop of wax goes unnoticed, and another mystery is solved. As ever, Pullman proves himself the master storyteller with laugh-out-loud-funny dialogue and memorable characters that spring to life, from the literally omnivorous Sharky Bob to the "blooming supernatural" Peretti twins and the "oily-eyed poodle-faker" Mr. Horspath. A strong sense of right and wrong permeates the gleeful absurdity of the New Cut Gang's madcap capers and refreshes the soul. (Mystery. 9-12)]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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