Mr. Timothy: A Novel

Mr. Timothy: A Novel

by Louis Bayard


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Mr. Timothy: A Novel by Louis Bayard

It's the Christmas season, and Mr. Timothy Cratchit, not the pious child the world thought he was, 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, Philomela, from the fate the others suffered at the hands of a dangerous and powerful man.

A different kind of Christmas story, this breathless flight through the teeming markets, shadowy passageways, and rolling brown fog of 1860s London would do Dickens proud for its surprising twists and turns, and its extraordinary heart.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060534226
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/26/2004
Series: P.S. Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 664,880
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.93(d)

About 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.

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.”

Reading Group Guide


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

Topics for Discussion

  1. Do you find Louis Bayard's grown-up Timothy Cratchit believable, and does he think, talk and act like you would expect him to, from what you know about his character as a child?
  2. How do you feel about a writer picking up a thread from those who have gone before them and spinning it into an entirely new story?
  3. Is Tim happier with the family he ends up with than the one he began with? Do you think he'll play any role in Philomela's life in the future?
  4. What is Colin the Melodious' role in the book? What do you think the author had in mind when he created this character, and in what way, if any, is he reminiscent of the characters Dickens created in A Christmas Carol?

About the Author

Louis Bayard is a writer and book reviewer whose work hasappeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post,, and, among others. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Customer Reviews

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Mr. Timothy 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I first picked up this book I wasn't too sure of what to think about it. It was a sequel in a way that I wasn't sure a sequel should ever be, it being written by a completely different author and all, but that suspicion was torn away with the first paragraph. I fell in love with the book and could not put it down. It never dulled me and it seemed to gain new life with every incident(and there are many incidents). Each characters has a place and they are nowhere near boring. I highly suggest that anyone who hasn't pick up this book right now.
bbb57 More than 1 year ago
It has been a long long time since I read a book so wonderfully written. The entire story works only because of the author's gift of language. I laughed out loud between the dark moments and finished the book craving more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The writing style, originality, character development make this one for my bookcase. Keeping in mind that my preference leans toward the historical fiction, I find Bayard, as a whole, is able to immerse me into a time beyond "Hollywood," bringing in the grit and filth of daily life with ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. If you're a fan of this genre, I think you'll find yourself quickly consuming all his works. My only regret is the lack of books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had to stop myself from gobbling this book up. It has to be savoured like a good wine or better chocolate. It's Dickens with blackened teeth. It was moving, gross and funny; real and a little scary. A good tale of the Victorian class system and its underbelly.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I truly enjoyed the twist to a Dickens character... who would have guessed it could be so interesting. I hope he continues with the characters. I think the characters of Philomela and Colin could enhance the life of Tim Cratchit. I plan to read other books by this author. I found myself wanting to go back and re-read Dickens classics for the viewpoint of child labor (so inhumane and unfair to society, but was tolerated during that era).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really like historical fiction and I was excited about this book. Perhaps the hype raised my expectations too high. It was fine but not great (ala the Josephine Bonaparte books which I loved). I did enjoy the references to Scrooge etc. but I did not walk away from this book with the characters living in my head. Also, the major crime committed in the book seems to be touched on fairly lightly - the author barely talks about what happens to the victims after the crime is perpetrated on them but it seems pretty important. So, if you want some light historical fiction for the plane, go for it...but lowering your expectations will help.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Which you would understand, if you ever read either Mr. Dickens OR Mr. Vachss. In any event, if you read no other part of this enjoyable Christmas mystery/read, take in pages 297-303, for what may be the most profound and moving exploration into the ethos that composes the father and son relationship that ever I have read or heard.
slightlyfan on LibraryThing 2 days ago
Eh. I lost interest really fast during this book. I made it maybe 100 pages in and could'nt force myself to pick it back up. It's a slow read and very boring. It had potential, what with the main character being Tiny Tim from A Christmas Carol, but it missed.
bookheaven on LibraryThing 2 days ago
Very suspenseful tale of Tiny Tim Cratchit grown up in his early 20s and the adventures he gets caught up in.
benbulben on LibraryThing 2 days ago
Mr. Timothy Cratchitt of A Christmas Carol fame narrates this story. He is all grown up now and trying to come into his own in the world. This book has many wonderful allusions to the works of Charles Dickens which makes for a great read. The man himself even makes a couple of uncredited appearances in the novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book that just kept you guessing.
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It was ok. A little boring at the begining. But it was ok.
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