In Dickens’ Oliver Twist, Jack Dawkins, a wily young pickpocket known as the Artful Dodger, ends up “doing full justice to his bringing-up, and establishing for himself a glorious reputation” by being sent to a penal colony in Australia.
Fortunately for those of us who were sad to see the clever lad end up with such a fate, Jack Dawkins himself takes up the story and gives us the real tale. According to Jack, John Brownlow, the adoptive father of Oliver Twist, pays his bail and saves him from transportation. Brownlow arranges for Jack to be escorted by a Bow Street Runner, named Hawke, to Shipenden, a farm outside of London, to get Jack away from the temptations of the city. As they travel together, Jack tells Hawke that he wants to find his parents, most especially his mother. The novel then follows Jack’s search to understand his past, encountering many hazards along the way.
This story is entirely believable as a spin-off of the original story. With continual action and clever dialogue, the voice is consistent with Dickens’ writing. The author has done his research and spices the story with historical details. The reader should be on the lookout for references to other Dickens characters weaved into the story. Through his many trials and tribulations, the Artful Dodger becomes a reformed Jack Dawkins, but keeps a little of the Dodger tucked away, just in case. As a Dickens fan, I found this story a pleasure to read.