DATE PUBLISHED: 2005
DATE READ: September 2010
NOTES: William May is suffering from post-traumatic stress following the Crimean War. He is working for Bazalgette on the upgrading of London’s sewer system. His mental state deteriorates after he becomes convinced he has witnessed a murder in one of the tunnels. His psychological problems are described in a most distressing way.
Tom is a “tosher” who illegally hunts for things in the sewers – including rats to be used in the dog fights that are put on in some of the public houses. Tom helps to cover up a crime which has been committed and his world and William’s begin to overlap.
Clare Clark has created an amazing a realistic picture of the harsh life lived by many in Victorian London. Her descriptions are vivid enough to make the strongest stomach turn. Definitely not a book to be read while eating you lunch!
The story moves at a swift pace and she introduces some excellent well-rounded characters. My only criticism would be that she creates an atmosphere of almost unremitting gloom – a few less serious touches would have been welcome.