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The Convicts: The Curse of the Jolly Stone Trilogy

The Convicts: The Curse of the Jolly Stone Trilogy

3.5 11
by Iain Lawrence

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After seeing his father hauled off to debtor’s prison, Tom Tin sets out to take revenge on Mr. Goodfellow, the man responsible for his family’s misfortunes. But the fog-filled London streets are teeming with sinister characters. Tom encounters a blind man who scavenges the riverbed for treasure—and wants what Tom digs up; Worms, a body snatcher who


After seeing his father hauled off to debtor’s prison, Tom Tin sets out to take revenge on Mr. Goodfellow, the man responsible for his family’s misfortunes. But the fog-filled London streets are teeming with sinister characters. Tom encounters a blind man who scavenges the riverbed for treasure—and wants what Tom digs up; Worms, a body snatcher who reveals a shocking surprise; and a nasty gang of young pickpockets who mistake Tom for someone ominously known as the Smasher. And ultimately, Tom comes up against the cruel hand of the law.

Accused of murder, Tom is given a seven-year sentence. He is to be transported to Van Diemen’s Land with other juvenile convicts. But Tom can’t abide life on the Hulk, the old ship where the boys are temporarily held. He decides to escape. But if he’s to succeed, his luck needs to turn. . . .

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
One of the darkest yet most engrossing of Lawrence's (the High Seas Trilogy) adventure novels, this tale set in 19th-century England and inspired by actual events sheds light on the sordid conditions of a prison ship for boys convicted of crimes. Action moves at a fast clip. Within the first 30 pages of the novel, 14-year-old Tom loses his father to debtors' prison, discovers a diamond half-buried in the riverbed, survives near strangulation by a man who wants his treasure and stumbles upon the corpse of a boy who could pass as his identical twin. Readers (and Tom) hardly have a chance to catch their breath before the unfortunate teen is mistaken for the deceased ruffian and dragged off to serve a seven-year term "beyond the seas" on the Lachesis. The author vividly conjures Tom's fear, dismay and physical pain aboard the vessel as he witnesses and personally experiences numerous atrocities, including near starvation, bondage and bullying by both guards and other inmates. Knowing the odds for survival are against him, Tom desperately searches for a means to escape the ship. The book, aimed at those mature and strong-stomached enough to endure Tom's horrors, powerfully draws readers into another time and place, and gripping Dickensian coincidences abound. The ending offers a glimmer of hope for down-trodden Tom and also leaves a door open for a sequel. Ages 10-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
After Tom Tin's father is sent to debtors' prison, Tom goes in search of Mr. Goodfellow, the man responsible for his father's misfortune. A chance encounter with a body snatcher and a case of mistaken identity results in Tom being sent to a prison boat. He and his fellow prisoners are to be transported to Australia . . . unless they can escape first! Amidst the squalor of the prison ship, Tom makes some friends, learns to be courageous, and uncovers some family secrets that explain the crimes for which he was unjustly convicted. Tom Tin's story is gripping, realistic, and very entertaining. The plot moves fast, but is never confusing or contrived. The historical details appear to be thoroughly researched and the characters are well-drawn. Lawrence's story is a worthy heir to the adventure tradition of Robert Lewis Stevenson and the like. 2005, Delacorte Press, Ages 10 up.
—Amie Rose Rotruck
Meet Charles Dickens for the MTV generation. The story starts with a six-year-old girl falling from a bridge over the Thames to her death, the mother's resulting madness, the father's bankruptcy and incarceration in debtor's prison, and goes from there to recount the adventures of 14-year-old Tom Tin, which include finding a diamond, losing it in the muck, a trial for murder, imprisonment on a slave ship and an adventure at sea. A final Dickensian touch is the amazing coincidence of Tom's being mistaken for a previously unknown evil twin. Shorn of Dickens' verbiage, but filled with details of the filthy streets of London, the desperation of its poorer inhabitants, and evil conditions of prison life, this book should keep boys reading while teaching them how lucky they are to live in the 21st century. Judging from its abrupt conclusion, this book is the first in a series about Tom Tin and may end up with as panoramic a scope as David Copperfield. 2005, Delacorte Press, 200 pp., Ages young adult.
—Myrna Dee Marler
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-To say that this lively novel is Dickensian is to understate its debt to that author. The story abounds in terrifying villains, grime, misery, and cruelty. Yet it also serves up a fair share of optimism. The narrator, Tom Tin, has fallen on hard times through no fault of his own. When his father, an unemployed ship's captain, is taken to debtor's prison, Tom discovers the dark underbelly of 19th-century London. He has the incredible luck of finding a valuable diamond, only to lose it in a grave robbery. Then he is arrested for theft, convicted of murder, and incarcerated on a dismal prison ship for boys. There he is mistaken for a boy called Smasher, who was part of a dastardly gang of pickpockets. Unfortunately for Tom, one of Smasher's victims is also on the ship and vows revenge. A wretched and weak youngster named Midgely convinces Tom that they can escape to a better life, and they hatch a plan. The plot twists in this story rely on a series of coincidences that no reader will take seriously, but this is where the fun lies. One is never sure what lurks around the next corner. This book is as action packed and as thoroughly researched as the author's seafaring trilogy, but it will be accessible to a wider audience because of its easier reading level. Give it to reluctant readers who are looking for an exciting adventure.-Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In Greek mythology, Lachesis was the Fate who measured the thread of a man's life. In this story, Lachesis is an evil, ghostly prison ship and it's young Tom Tin who's convicted of murder and fated to prison time on the old hulk. Conditions are horrible, escape or pardon unlikely, and the best hope is to be transported, as Tom eventually is, to Van Diemen's Land. When his father is sent to debtor's prison, Tom sets off to settle accounts with sinister Mr. Goodfellow. Charles Dickens with a good editor might have told a tale like this, full of fog, outrageous characters, sad fortunes and lucky coincidences. A mysterious twin, a bone grubber, a giant, a blind man, a three-legged horse and a diamond found and lost are part of the sequence of events that lands Tom on Lachesis, a dark and cruel fate for such a young boy. Brilliant writing, adventure and a likable character mired in the claustrophobic dark of a 19th-century convict ship will entrance all readers who love an old-fashioned tale well told. (author's note) (Fiction. 10+)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Curse of the Jolly Stone Trilogy , #1
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.19(w) x 6.86(h) x 0.62(d)
Age Range:
12 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

I begin my adventure

When she was six and I was eight, my little sister, Kitty, died. She fell from a bridge, into the Thames, and drowned before anyone could reach her. My mother was there when it happened. She heard a scream and turned to see my sister spinning through the air. She watched Kitty vanish into the eddies of brown water, and in that instant my mother's mind unhinged.
She put on mourning clothes of the blackest black and hid herself from head to toe, like a beetle in a shell. As the sun went up, as the sun went down, she stood over Kitty's grave. Her veils aflutter in the wind, her shawls drooping in the rain, she became a phantom of the churchyard, a figure feared by children. Even I, who had known her all my life, never ventured near the place when the yellow fogs of autumn came swirling round the headstones.
It was a day such as that, an autumn day, when my father had to drag her from my sister's grave. The fog was thick and putrid, like a vile custard poured among the tombstones. From the iron gate at the street I couldn't see as far as the church. But I saw the crosses and the marble angels, some distinct, some like shadows, and my father among them, as though battling with a demon. I heard my mother wailing.
Her boots were black, her bonnets black, and the rippling of her clothes made her look more like a beast than a person. She shrieked and fought against him, clinging to the headstone, clawing at the earth. When at last my father brought her through the gate, she was howling like a dog. In her hand was a fistful of dirt. She looked at it, and fainted dead away.
We lifted her into the cart, among the bundles and the chests that represented all our goods. The drayman climbed to his seat. He cracked his whip and swore at his horse, and off we started for Camden Town.
I walked beside my father as we passed our empty house and turned toward the bridge. By chance, the drayman chose the same route that Father took every morning on his useless treks to the Admiralty. I saw him look up at the house, then down at the ground, and we went along in silence. Only a few feet before me, the cart was no more than a gray shape. It seemed to be pulled by an invisible horse that snorted and wheezed as it clopped on the paving stones. My mother woke and sat keening on the cart.
We were nearly at the river before my father spoke. "This is for her own good," he said. "You know that, Tom."
"Yes," I said, though it wasn't true. We were not leaving Surrey for my mother's sake, but only to save the two pennies my father spent crossing the bridge every day. We were leaving because Mr. Goodfellow had driven us away, just as he had driven us from a larger house not a year before. I believed he would haunt us forever, chasing us from one shrinking home to the next, until he saw us out on the streets with the beggars and the blind. We were leaving Surrey because my father was a sailor without a ship.
He didn't walk like a sailor anymore. He didn't look like one, nor even smell like one, and I wouldn't have believed he had ever been a sailor if it weren't for the threadbare uniform he donned every morning, and for the bits of sailory knickknack that had once filled our house but now were nearly gone. In all my life I had watched him sailing out to sea only once, and then in a thing so woeful that it sank before he reached the Medway. That, too, had been Mr. Goodfellow's doing; that had been the start of it.
When we reached the timber wharfs at the foot of the bridge I could feel the Thames close at hand. Foghorns hooted and moaned, and there came the thumping of a steamboat as it thrashed its way along the river. But I couldn't smell the water; the stench of the fog hid even that.
We paid our toll and started over the bridge. Father walked at the very edge, his sleeve smearing the soot that had fallen on the rail. Horses and carriages appeared before us, and a cabriolet came rattling up from behind. I had to dodge around people, and step nimbly from a curricle's path, but my father walked straight ahead with a mind only for the river below us. Ladies on the benches drew in their feet as he passed. One snatched up a little white dog. A man shouted, "Watch where you're walking." But Father just brushed by them all.
I imagined that he could somehow see the water, and all the life upon it. Sounds that drifted up to me as mere groans and puzzling splashes must, to him, have been visions of boatsmen and bargemen, of oars and sails at work. His head rose; his shoulders straightened for a moment.
I had no wish to know his world, though I had been born by the banks of the Thames, where the river met the sea. We'd left the village before I was two, at the wishes of my mother. The river had taken her father, and the sea had taken her brothers, and ever since my sister's death she'd taught me to fear them both. I often thought--when I saw the Thames swirling by--that one or the other was waiting to take me too.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Iain Lawrence is the author of numerous acclaimed novels, including The Lightkeeper’s Daughter, Lord of the Nutcracker Men, Ghost Boy, and the High Seas Trilogy: The Wreckers, The Smugglers, and The Buccaneers. The author lives on Gabriola Island, BC.

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The Convicts: The Curse of the Jolly Stone Trilogy 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Abigail Burdue More than 1 year ago
It started out as a book for my book report but then I realized it was such a good book... I loved it...
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing! Every chapter had me wondering what would happen next! I'm only 12 and a very good reader and I'm picky about my favs but this made the top 5! Keep writing and I can't wait to read the sequal!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book for teens
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ASHCLOUD Locked out! Plz move camps!!! ~desperate Ashcloud, frantic :( D:
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wgatever ppl say thats bad dont listen to them read it ur self and see what u r think and read just the good reveiws and it will help u think that its which this book is good and u can decide the bad if thereis any bad
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was one of the BEST books I've ever read! It was very exciting and you could really connect with the characters! I loved it! A definite must read! Also the sequel, The Cannibals, is a very fun book! And I can't wait for the 3rd one to come out!
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is a alright book because this kids dad gos to prison and he goes to find him but he kills a guy and then he gos to prison to but eventually escapes and he and his dad are reunited, but im not a reader so i couldnt really tell you.
JokerRAM More than 1 year ago
this is a alright book because this kids dad gos to prison and he goes to find him but he kills a guy and then he gos to prison to but eventually escapes and he and his dad are reunited, but im not a reader so i couldnt really tell you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is very bad! it is so boring and whenever i read it i just want to go to sleep. Im a girl and boys might like this book but i hated it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book wasn't good. Other people might like it but I didn't. I had to read it for school so that is the only reason i read it. It was really sad and emotional though in different parts of the story.