The Curse of the Body Snatchers
Jack Moon is a 12-year-old boy living on the streets in 1850s London. His friend has died, and Jack buries him secretly, at night. Jack tries to struggle on alone until he is taken up by a phrenologist, Professor Stackpool. At a public demonstration, Jack protests against the professor’s analysis of his character from the bumps on his head and is supported by a wealthy judge, Sir Lionel. The professor is challenged to prove his theories, and Jack is employed as a servant in attendance on Sir Lionel’s granddaughter, Olivia.
The children become friends, but Olivia suffers from a mysterious illness, and Sir Lionel has been cursed by a disgruntled family of body snatchers. Jack is caught up in their lives and must struggle through many dangers to prove himself.
The supernatural hovers round the edges of this story, as do questions of belief and superstition. But the characters lack the depth which would take us fully into the historical period. The story is told by Jack, whose resilience is of superhuman proportions. He survives an escape from a burning building, near drowning in the Thames and concussion, without slowing down or becoming seriously ill. The plot is so complicated that the villains eventually have to explain themselves at some length.
On the other hand, the story works as melodrama. I was caught up in the action and wanted to know how the complications would be resolved. There is plenty of effective period detail about pure finding, bleeding for medical purposes and spiritualism as well as phrenology and body snatching. The locations range from graveyards at night and deserted warehouses to the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly. Jack’s enthusiasm and courage are engaging and the book as a whole is an entertaining read.
For boys of 8 plus.