Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Traitor’s Gate

The Traitor’s Gate

Illustrator:  Karina Raude 
Historical Fiction
For ages 12 and up
Simon and Schuster, 2007   ISBN: 978-0689853357

John Huffman's life has taken a decided turn for the worse. It would appear that John's father owes some three hundred pounds to one Mr. Finnegan O'Doul. The Huffman family's possessions are sized and they are sent to a sponging house for a few days. While they are there Mr. Huffman can try to clear his debt. If he cannot, then he will be sent to debtor's prison. To John's great distress his father does not seem to really comprehend the severity of the situation and everyone seems to be relying on him, a fourteen year old boy, to find a solution to this dire state of affairs.

At his father's request John goes to visit his great-great-aunt, Lady Euphemia Huffman. Lady Euphemia dislikes John's father but she might be willing to help John, and so the reluctant boy sets out, not knowing what to expect. Lady Euphemia is certainly quite a frightening old lady and she is not in the least bit interested in helping out Mr. Huffman. She will not pay off the debt, but she will find John a job. At the very least the boy will be able to pay for his father's stay in debtor's prison.

John cannot understand why everyone seems to know something about this alleged debt of his father's and yet no one is willing to explain anything to him. There is something going on that does not make any sense. Who is the man who calls himself Inspector Copperfield, and why is the bailiff from the sponging house meeting with the inspector from Scotland Yard? Who is the scruffy street girl who is following him around everywhere, and why is John so sure that his own father is lying to him?

This Victorian spy mystery is sure is delight readers who enjoy books about this period in history. Av's London is very true to the London of this time. He captures the atmosphere, the smells, and the sounds of the city. It is interesting to see how fourteen year old John is forced to grow up quickly as he takes responsibility for his family. Somehow he has to try to correct his father's mistakes, which turn out to be much bigger than John thought possible.