Review: Two Crafty Criminals!

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Two Crafty Criminals!Two Crafty Criminals!: And How They Were Captured by the Daring Detectives of the New Cut Gang by Philip Pullman
Published by Knopf BFYR on May 8, 2012
Genres: Adventure, Historical, Mystery
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

Benny Kaminsky and Thunderbolt Dobney lead a rag-tag gang of neighborhood rowdies. Their territory is the New Cut on London's South Bank—a place bristling with swindlers, bookies, pickpockets, and the occasional policeman. And their aim is to solve crimes.

When counterfeit coins start showing up in their neighborhood, Thunderbolt fears his own father may be behind the crime. But his friends devise a way to trap the real culprit. Then the gang takes on the case of some stolen silver. They have just two clues—a blob of wax, and an unusually long match. But even this slippery thief is unmasked by the determined kids of the New Cut.

Filled with silly sleuthing, improbable disguises, crazy ruses, and merry mayhem, these stories are action-packed romps from one of the best storytellers ever—Philip Pullman.

First Sentence: “The criminal career of Thunderbolt Dobney began on a foggy November evening outside the Waxwork Museum.”

The minute I saw this one in NetGalley, I wanted it desperately, because I loved the His Dark Materials series. Two Crafty Criminals is quite a different story than those books. In fact, the book isn’t so much a book as two shorter books bound into one. This could just as easily have been published as two volumes in a series.

Two Crafty Criminals! reads kind of like a television show for kids, one where they solve mysteries or commit hijinks along a particular plot line in each episode. The third person narration follows around the various members of the New Cut Gang in their detecting. The kids are quirky, especially the youngest one Sharky (who doesn’t appear in the second story, except in a mention), who reminded me of the baby from the Lemony Snicket series, because he also will chew/eat ANYTHING. And I mean anything.

The first episode, entitled “Thunderbolt’s Wax,” centers around the mystery of the counterfeited coins being spent in the gang’s little town. When Thunderbolt’s father is arrested, they feel that they must prove his innocence by finding the true criminal. A second plot line, which I found slightly clunky, involved them desperately trying to get their friend (a food vendor) a waxwork of himself in the museum. This was probably my favorite of the two stories, despite the bit of awkwardness. The kids are quirky and fun, and the mystery was relatively interesting, albeit simple for the children.

The second tale, “The Gas-Fitters’ Ball,” also involved a crime to be solved, but that definitely did not feel like the central part. In fact, this story was more about children gambling on whether or not a man will propose to the prettiest girl in town. To help their odds, they try, in various ways, to help his suit, but, unsurprisingly, young children don’t make the best matchmakers. Along the way, they solve the case of the stolen silver.

Obviously, I wasn’t overwhelmed by the plotting of either tale. Both had good elements, but didn’t seem well-balanced. Neither seemed to successfully weave the two main plot threads together. HOWEVER, the writing is delightful. Philip Pullman has a way with language, and that made these a joy to read. I would really recommend parents reading these aloud to children, because some of the words might be seriously confounding to young readers. It would also probably lend itself well to narration. Oh, brief PSA, if you’re a parent and you don’t read to your child, you totally should. My parents did for years and years, and I am so grateful for that.

The book comes off as a sort of mashup between Scooby Doo and The Mysterious Benedict Society, perhaps with a dash of Newsies for British flair. It’s quick and fun, and even has pictures! The last sentence of the description actually sums it up quite well, so if you like those things, get to a bookstore with speed! (Only you should probably wait until May 8, since that’s when the book will come out.)

Favorite Quote:

“All she knew was that she must be in love with someone, or she wouldn’t feel so miserable.”

7 responses to “Review: Two Crafty Criminals!”

  1. this sounds so cute and fun!

  2. I quite enjoy Scooby Doo, Newsies and The Mysterious Benedict Society. UM SOLD!!!

    Also? Phillip Pullman rocks, I was into His Dark Materials too and lol this is stupid but was totally crushed after reading about the daemons and not having one. I desperately wanted one.

  3. This one sounds cute — sounds like the kind of book that would have piqued my interest as a middle grade reader. Definitely one for the kids! 🙂


  4. Kayla Beck says:

    As soon as I saw “Philip Pullman”, it instantly went on my TBR. I’m probably going to buy it, too. Maybe right now… *wanders off*

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