Mr. Timothy by Louis Bayard (Response to Historical Tapestry's Alphabet Challenge)
Just in time for Christmas, a novel inspired by Dickens' classic Carol in Prose. This was a gift at a White Elephant exchange a couple of years ago, and I think I perhaps made out the best (though the covetted gift of the night, a reindeer-poo candy dispenser, would have been an amusing addition to my holiday display, I couldn't write a review of it here).
Enjoying this book was a bit of a surprise--I generally don't enjoy the seedy Victorian underbelly scene (overdone, often overkill, often stereotypical) and I generally don't get into mysteries. This was a mystery set in the seedy underbelly of Victorian London, with the full cast of stereotypically seedy Victorian characters (the prostitutes, the charming youthful pickpocket, the crusty river boatsman, the corrupt aristocracy). But the plot pranced along at a pleasant gait, and the characters were complex enough to invite both sympathy and interest. And of course, a good part of the fun was seeing where the characters of the original story would come in.
Fair warning--the plot does center around prostitution and includes a ring that attempts child prostitution, so while the book itself does not contain explicit sex, the suggestion of upsetting themes is certainly there. At certain points there's a bit of lag on the story, particularly up front--the novelty does not last quite long enough to sustain the reader until the plot really commences. I would have appreciated the addition of a subplot or two, but as I said--I'm not much of a mystery reader, so that was probably the reason I wanted more out of the story. And of course, Tiny Tim as the main character aside, the basic plot has certainly been done before. Yet Bayerd's writing keeps the book fresh, as do a few turns he takes with the characters and the allusions to Dickens' Christmas Carol. A worthwhile winter read.