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Mr. Timothy

Mr. Timothy

3.8 19
by Louis Bayard, Mark Honan

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Welcome to the world of a grown-up Timothy Cratchit, as created by the astonishing imagination of author Louis Bayard.

Mr. Timothy Cratchit has just buried his father. He's also struggling to bury his past as a cripple and shed his financial ties to his benevolent "Uncle" Ebenezer by losing himself in the thick of London's underbelly. He boards at a brothel in


Welcome to the world of a grown-up Timothy Cratchit, as created by the astonishing imagination of author Louis Bayard.

Mr. Timothy Cratchit has just buried his father. He's also struggling to bury his past as a cripple and shed his financial ties to his benevolent "Uncle" Ebenezer by losing himself in the thick of London's underbelly. He boards at a brothel in exchange for teaching the mistress how to read and spends his nights dredging the Thames for dead bodies and the treasures in their pockets.

Timothy's life takes a sharp turn when he discovers the bodies of two dead girls, each seared with the same cruel brand on the upper arm. The sight of their horror-struck faces compels Timothy to become the protector of another young girl, the enigmatic Philomela. Spurred on by the unwavering enthusiasm of a street-smart, fast-talking homeless boy who calls himself Colin the Melodious, Timothy soon finds that he's on the trail of something far worse -- and far more dangerous -- than an ordinary killer.

This breathless flight through the teeming markets, shadowy passageways, and rolling brown fog of 1860s London is wrought with remarkable depth and intelligence, complete with surprising twists and extraordinary heart.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
Bayard creates several clever ligatures to Dickens's original text, but it would be wrong to consider Mr. Timothy a sequel; its intent is not to show how characters turned out but rather, at least in part, to meditate on the question of identity and loss, and redemption as well, drawing on A Christmas Carol for a few founding precepts. When it evokes the original, it's with a sly twist. — Art Winslow
The New York Times
Bayard is daring to elaborate on a work that has become deeply embedded in our culture. Far from being cowed, though, he is confident enough to turn this story on its head. His Tiny Tim reveals that he was never really the angelic tot who piously hoped the sight of him in church would remind the able-bodied congregation ''who made lame beggars walk and blind men see.'' No, Tim tells us, noble sentiments like these were fabricated by his father, who then attributed them to Tim. Young Cratchit was actually an angry child who could hardly wait to escape his lower-class family, especially his father, by means of the fortune and education Scrooge provided him … Mr. Timothy, while in no way approaching the greatness of its source, is nevertheless an inventive and amusing turn on it. — Julie Gray
Publishers Weekly
Bayard's first two novels (Fool's Errand; Endangered Species) were contemporary romantic comedies, a far cry from his third, an audacious and triumphant entertainment that imagines the post-Christmas Carol life of Tiny Tim, transformed from an iconic representation of innocent suffering ("the iron brace was bought by a salvager long ago, and the crutch went for kindling") into a fully realized young adult struggling to find his place in a cruel world. Having lost his parents and become estranged from his remaining family as well from as reformed Ebenezer Scrooge, Mr. Timothy Cratchit has found a niche in a brothel as the tutor to its madam. Haunted by his failure to connect with his father, as well as by his father's ghost, Timothy has developed a thick skin to guard against the oppressive misery endemic to 1860s London. His defenses are penetrated when he encounters Philomela, a 10-year-old waif who has been mysteriously abused. With the assistance of a singing street urchin called Colin the Melodious and a maimed retired seafarer, he pursues the source of her torment and its connection with another child whose branded body was dumped in an obscure alley. The quest becomes more quixotic when evidence points to the aristocracy, abetted by a corrupt police force, but with Philomela taking an active role, the quartet narrow in on their target. With surprising but plausible twists, and a visceral, bawdy evocation of Victorian London, Bayard has crafted a page-turner of a thriller that is elevated beyond its genre by its endearingly flawed hero for whom nothing human is alien. (Nov.) Forecast: Like Charles Palliser's The Quincunx, this book will be embraced by Dickens devotees and many others as well. Riveting storytelling and the Christmas Carol connection could make it a holiday hit. Five-city author tour. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Mr. Timothy is Tiny Tim Cratchit, all grown up and not too much the worse for wear save for a pronounced limp from his childhood disability. This spin-off reveals what happens after Ebenezer Scrooge reforms at the end of A Christmas Carol and the curtain goes down on the Cratchit family in improved circumstances. It is now Christmas in 1860, and Timothy, bedeviled by his father's ghost, has temporarily taken up residence in a brothel, where he earns his room and board by giving reading lessons to the proprietress. The Dickensian cast of characters includes Colin the Melodious, as artful a dodger as ever was, and Philomela, a young damsel in distress whom Timothy sets out to rescue from a pedophile ring run by a titled villain and his slash-happy henchman. If you have not had your fill of ghost-ridden heroes, needy orphans, and foggy nights in cobblestone streets, this sequel-with its breakneck plot, colorful characters, and the reappearance of Scrooge and the Cratchits-will fill the bill. This Christmas Carol for the new millennium is highly recommended.-Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Tiny Tim has grown up in this uneven effort: an intriguing reexamination of Dickens's beloved waif, saddled with a not altogether successful thriller, à la The Alienist. It's nearing Christmas in 1860s London and Tim Cratchit, now in his 20s, is reconsidering his life, irrevocably altered by that fateful, famous Christmas Day so many years ago. After his conversion to goodness, Ebenezer Scrooge took on the Cratchit family as his personal penance, particularly the angelic Tiny Tim. Tim was sent to doctors to fix his legs, tutored to fix his mind, and, by 20, he's a right little gentleman, though with few prospects and even less money (in an amusing turn, Scrooge, who's given most of his money away in philanthropy, now devotes his time to his collection of fungi). Strapped for cash, Tim takes a job as tutor in exchange for room and board, but his pupil is a middle-aged madame and his new home a brothel. Bayard's success is in questioning the original narrative of The Christmas Carol: it seems Tiny Tim never uttered all the selfless prattle attributed to him, it was father Bob Cratchit who fed the lines, trying to make something extraordinary out of his crippled boy. Into this father-son drama (though Bob is dead, Tim sees his ghost everywhere) comes the plot of a child slave-ring. Tim stumbles on a secret society with royal connections, though this society imports ten-year-old girls, brands them with Lord Griffyn's sign, and then offers them to upper-class pedophiles. With the help of young Colin, a street urchin who would have done Fagin proud, Tim tries to rescue Philomela, an Italian girl who has already once escaped the clutches of Lord Griffyn. Like Dickens, Bayard exposes the povertyand casual exploitation of children in that most self-serious of eras, and if he's a bit more explicit, well, this is the 21st century after all. Bayard is less successful in turning this clever literary novel into a bait-and-chase thriller-the climactic rescue comprises a full third of the narrative-and it is mighty hard work keeping the chase lively for so long. Still, a clever premise and smartly detailed prose manage to offset the disappointment of this tale's forced excitement.
People (four-star review)
“[A] dazzling blend of literary fiction and white-knuckle thriller.”
Denver Post
"A divinely crafted novel."
"A first-rate entertainment."
Entertainment Weekly
"There isn’t one throwaway sentence in this fabulous Victorian mystery ...a subtle character examination and a page-turning plot."
Washington Post
New York Times Book Review
"Inventive and amusing."
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"This mix of thriller and literature is as rich as a Christmas cake…a spirited adventure. "
“[A] dazzling blend of literary fiction and white-knuckle thriller.”
(four-star review) - People Magazine
"[A] dazzling blend of literary fiction and white-knuckle thriller."
Sena Jeter Naslund
"The voice and intelligence behind the book are a real marvel."
Gary Krist
"...all of the moral passion of a Dickens novel but none of the quaint sentimentality."
Kevin Baker
"Mr. Timothy is a spirited and absorbing thriller and Louis Bayard is a very talented writer."
Sarah Smith
"...a satisfying, gruesome thriller and a moving meditation on fathers, sons, and the making of a family."

Product Details

Sound Library
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Read an Excerpt

Mr. Timothy
A Novel

Chapter One

Not so tiny any more, that's a fact. Nearly five-eight, last I was measured, and closing in on eleven stone. To this day, people find it hard to reckon with. My sister Martha, by way of example, wouldn't even meet my eye last time I saw her, had to fuss at my shirt buttons and stare at my chest, as though there were two dew-lashed orbs blinking out of my breastbone. Didn't matter I've half a foot on her now, she still wanted to be mothering me, and her with a full brood of her own -- six, last I counted -- and a well-oiled husband gone two nights for every night he's home, why would she want more bodies to tend? But she does, and old habits, and let the woman have what she wants, so on this last occasion, I dropped to my knees and looked straight at the sky with that look I used to have, it comes back in an instant, and I sang "Annie Laurie." And Martha laughed and boxed my ear and said Out with you, but I think it pleased her, remembering me smaller, everything else smaller, too.

The iron brace was bought by a salvager long ago, and the crutch went for kindling shortly after -- quite the ceremonial moment -- and all that's left, really, is the limp, which to hear others tell it is not a limp but a lilt, a slight hesitation my right leg makes before greeting the pavement, a metrical shyness. Uncle N told me once to call it a caesura, but this produced looks of such profound unknowing I quickly gave it up. I now refer to it as my stride. My hitch-stride. A lovely forward connotation that I quite fancy, although I can't honestly say I've been moving forwards, not in the last sixmonth. But always better to leave that impression.

I never think of the leg, truthfully, until the weather begins to change. I'll know it's spring, for instance, by the small ring of fire just under the right buttock. Fall is the dull, prodding ache in the hip joint, and winter is a bit of a kick in the knee. The whole kneecap sings for three or four days solid, and no amount of straightening or bending or ignoring will stop the music.

It's winter now.

The twelfth of December, to be specific, a date I am commemorating by staying in bed. I can't say bed rest does the knee any better, but if I lie still long enough, the knee merges with the rest of me and dissipates. Or perhaps I should say everything else dissipates; I forget even how to move my arm.

Many years ago, a doctor with violet nostrils and kippery breath informed my mother that the paralysis in my leg would, left untreated, rise through me like sap, up the thigh and the hip, through the lower vertebrae, the breastbone, the lungs, to settle finally in the heart itself, little orphan bundle, swallowed and stilled forever. Being just six, and possessing an accelerated sense of time, I assumed this would happen very quickly -- in three or four hours, let us say -- so I made a special point of saying good-bye to Martha and Belinda because they were rather nicer than Jemmy and Sam, and I told Peter if he wanted my stool, he could well have it, and that night, I lay on my pallet, waiting to go, pinching myself every few seconds to see if the feeling had vanished yet. And I suppose after all that pinching, it did. only a matter of time, then, before the heart went. I lay there listening in my innermost ear for the final winding-down, wondering what that last, that very last beat would sound like.

Well, you can imagine how alarmed I was to awake the next morning and find the ticker still jigging. Felt a bit cheated, if you must know. And perhaps by way of compensation, I've been dreaming ever since that the longawaited ending has at last come. I dream I'm back in Camden Town, except now I'm too big for everything: the stool, the bed, the crutch. Even the ceiling crowds a little, I have to stoop or lean against the wall. My feet are rooted to the ground. The sap is rising. I've already lost the feeling in my hands, the last draughts of air are being squeezed from my lungs, and my heart is thumping loud enough to wake the dead-and I realise then that the heart doesn't shut down at all, it keeps beating long after everything else has stopped, it's a separate organism altogether, and in a fury of betrayal, I grab for it, raking my fingers along the rib cage, and my lung squeezes out one last accordion blast of air, and that's when I cry out. I'm never sure whether I've actually cried out or whether it's part of the dream, but it always leaves me feeling exposed in some deep and irreversible fashion, so I must spend the next five minutes inventing plausible excuses for the neighbours who will come pounding on my door any minute, demanding an explanation.

The neighbours never come, of course. I have the great fortune of sleeping in an establishment where loud cries are part of the ambience. indeed, in Mrs. Sharpe's lodging house, one might scream "Murder!" several times in quick succession and elicit nothing more than indulgent smiles from the adjoining rooms. Murder here being simply another fantasy, and fantasy being the prevailing trade.

The only person within earshot of me most nights is Squidgy, the droopshouldered, hairy-eared gentleman with a tonsure of white hair who comes three times a week to be punished for the infractions he committed in public school half a century ago ...

Mr. Timothy
A Novel
. Copyright © by Louis Bayard. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are saying about this

Gary Krist
“...all of the moral passion of a Dickens novel but none of the quaint sentimentality.”
Sena Jeter Naslund
“The voice and intelligence behind the book are a real marvel.”
Sarah Smith
“...a satisfying, gruesome thriller and a moving meditation on fathers, sons, and the making of a family.”
Kevin Baker
“Mr. Timothy is a spirited and absorbing thriller and Louis Bayard is a very talented writer.”

Meet the Author

A writer, book reviewer, and the author of Mr. Timothy and The Pale Blue Eye, Louis Bayard has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, and, among other media outlets. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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