About ten years ago I was asked to contribute a story to a collection of Dickensian whodunits. The idea was for a series of mystery stories featuring characters from the novels of Charles Dickens. I chose Oliver Twist and Jack Dawkins aka the Artful Dodger.

I presented Oliver as a young man who was now working as a lawyer in London. He encounters his old friend Jack Dawkins from his days with Fagin. Jack, still the raffish, likeable rogue, has got himself into another scrape. Oliver helps him out of it and decides to take Jack under his wing, to save him from himself and try to ‘civilise’ him. During the process, the pair become involved in a murder mystery which they solve.

The story, The Murder in Murray’s Court, was successful and I thought that the concept of Oliver and Jack as a detective duo had legs and they could feature in a novel-length story. However, it was only a couple of years ago that I eventually got round to writing it – and so now we have Oliver Twist & The Mystery of Throate Manor. It was great fun to write and although I did not attempt to replicate Dickens’ style, I have tried to imbue the narrative with a strong flavour of his kind of storytelling and I hope I’ve captured the spirit and essence of his style. It is a crime and mystery novel – but then so were a number of Dickens’ tales. I have been able to include moments of drama, horror and humour and people the narrative with a wide range of characters, some of them comic, some grotesque and some engaging.  There are, for example, the decrepit warring aristocrats Sir Ebenezer and Lady Amelia Throat and their ne’er do well son Jeremiah. Then we have the darkest of villains in Eugene Trench and the horrific harridan Lady Wilhemina Whitestone and her charming companion, Felicity Waring. These and many more colourful  characters people the crowded stage of this mystery novel.

As Sir Ebenezer Throate nears the end of his life, he gives Oliver the task of finding his illegitimate child whom he had secretly fathered some twenty five years before. Now in old age, ridden with guilt and prompted by a strange spectral nightly visitor, he seeks to make amends to the abandoned child. This task leads Oliver and Jack on a convoluted trail that leads them into danger…. I don’t want to say more as I’d like you to discover the many twists (no pun in intended) and turns of the story.

 

Oliver Twist & The Mystery of Throate Manor by David Stuart Davies

 

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