Dido and Pa
by Joan Aiken
The seventh book in the series that began with The Wolves
of Willoughby Chase
picks up exactly where The Cuckoo
left off, with King Richard IV newly crowned in his alternate-history version of 19th-century England, and clever
young Dido Twite bemoaning her loneliness while her long-lost friend Simon, who is now the Duke of Battersea, searches for
her in the Suffolk downs.
He finds her but nearly immediately loses her again; for at last, Didos rotten-to-the-core, brilliant musician father has
found a use for her. He wants her to take part in a diabolical, Hanoverian plot against good King Dick, which involves a
royal lookalike, a laudanum addict who (for a farthing apiece) lets 83 lollpoops sleep in her cellar, and a mesmerizingly
wicked Hanoverian margrave who reckons that the healing powers of music are the only things keeping him alive.
Lollpoops, for those of you who have never lived in a parallel-universe London circa 1840, are some of the 10,000 or so
orphan children scraping a living in the streets. Many of them belong to a club that exists for mutual aid and cooperation,
though not all the footloose kids of London are kind or trustworthy. Theres another group, called the Bowmen, who run a
vicious protection racket and serve as spies for the Margrave. But the lollpoops become instrumental in stopping the
Margraves vile plan, as they make pretty good spies and messengers too.
Even with their help, however, it looks like this time Dido and her friends may have met their match. How can you stop
people who have no conscience, and who have the brains, the money, and the manpower to make anyone (including the King
himself) disappear? How can you stop an evil plan involving a triumphal procession through a tunnel under the Thames, a
concert of original music by Abednego Twite (alias Boris von Bredalbane), a fearfully abused girl known as the Slut, and the
convenient fact that only Simon and his sister Sophie remain alive of the Kings close friends?
And then, in one horrible night, Sophie disappears while attending the Margraves musical soiree and Simon is reported
missing and presumed dead while battling the fierce, starving wolves that are closing in on London...
This is a gripping, scary adventure and a sensitive character portrait at the same time. This time, though the bad guys get
their comeuppance like never before, the good guys experience horror and loss as well. Though the books ending seems to
draw the adventures of Dido Twite to a most satisfying conclusion, I hear tell of a more recent book featuring our
self-possessed heroine. If I can get hold of Dangerous Games (currently out of print, and the used copies are out of
my price range) youll hear about it right here. Judging by how this series started good and got better and better, my guess
is Ill be calling for a reprint!
Recommended Age: 12+
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