This is a book that I read a couple of years ago and enjoyed, and have just read again for a book group. For me to re read a book is very rare and very annoying because I just sit there thinking of the time I could be spending reading something I haven’t read before so, this is a big commitment for me!
Wild boy is a freak. At least, that’s what he has been told his entire life. Abandoned as a baby at the workhouse, he has been kept locked in a room for most of his life. The other boys are afraid of him and the workhouse owner makes money from exhibiting him to curious people. One day, a man called Finch comes to the workhouse and offers the owner a deal; he will pay to take the boy off his hands. He wants him to join his circus in the freak show. Wild Boy notices some things about Finch that Finch wants to keep hidden, and we start to see that Wild Boy is not just strange looking (his body is entirely covered in hair), but has a unique ability to see things that other people cannot. He decides that life in the circus has got to be better than life in the work house and he agrees to go. Thus, his new life begins.
The next time we meet Wild Boy he is living in a caravan with a man called Sir Oswald. Sir Oswald lost both of his legs fighting at the battle of Waterloo and is another inhabitant of the freak show. He spends most of his time mending the caravan and looking after Wild Boy. Through a series of mishaps, Wild Boy is out wandering the circus one night when he witnesses a murder after overhearing a conversation about a mysterious machine. He is then embroiled in a fight and accused of being the murderer. He teams up with another kid from the circus Clarissa, who he meets on top of a caravan – they hate each other but soon realise that the only way to solve the murder is to work together. Clarissa is the daughter of the trapeze act and can jump and escape from the most dangerous places, her mother runs the circus but hates her daughter because she looks like the husband who abandoned her. Together they team up to try and solve the murder and work out what the machine is. They meet several strange men who are part of a secret society and begin a game of cat and mouse with the real murderer who is also after the machine and thinks they can lead him to it.
Wild Boy and Clarissa both have unique skills to bring to the table and, together they set about solving the murder and saving London. There is a great twist at the end when we discover who the murderer is and the way is set for a sequel with the two heroes. This is a little bit like Sherlock Holmes. Wild Boy can detect things about a person just be looking at tiny clues that a normal person would not be able to see.
The book is set in Victorian London and has some grimy sewer scenes as well, it’s very atmospheric. A great thriller that will keep you guessing who the golden mask man is, who’s the murderer, and what the machine can do. Also look out for the sequel, The Black Terror, I’m not sure if there will be any more but I hope so.