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Reviewed by:
  • Mister Creecher
  • Karen Coats
Priestley, Chris. Mister Creecher. Bloomsbury, 2011. [320p]. ISBN 978-1-59990-703-1 $16.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 7–10.

Since the death of his mother, Billy has lived by his wits on the streets of London, chiefly as a pickpocket. Now the year is 1818, and he is saved from a beating at the hands a rival group of thugs by a huge, grotesque, foul-smelling but well-spoken man who, though squeamish about thievery, seems to have no compunction about murder. Billy hears the man’s name as Creecher, and the two form a mutually beneficial relationship—in exchange for Creecher’s help in stepping up his thievery through intimidation, Billy follows two men, a Mr. Frankenstein and a Mr. Clerval, through the streets of London. At first Billy cooperates with Creecher out of fear, but soon he begins to enjoy his company and value him as a friend. Little by little, both of their stories emerge, and Billy is distressed to hear that Creecher intends to run away with the companion he is forcing Frankenstein to make for him, a plan that leaves no room for Billy. The evolving relationship between boy and creature drives the engine of this sometimes horrific, sometimes tender tale, as Billy gradually discovers more and more points of affinity between himself and Creecher: they are both alone and despised, and as a result, they both loathe and long for the society which has rejected them. Cameo appearances by Mary and Percy Shelley reinforce Billy’s pain, as he watches their domestic bliss through their window; their screams when they spot him with Creecher looming behind him foreshadow the isolation that will follow him throughout his life. Both Billy and Creecher often respond to their conflicting emotions with anger and violence, but while Creecher’s conscience seems to grow more acute through his relationship with Billy, Billy’s trends toward a slow disintegration; his ultimate fate will be especially haunting for those readers who recognize his later-life role in Oliver Twist. Readers who like their horror stories embedded in the classic tradition that includes the subtle and perceptive exploration of character psychology will relish this.



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