Circus of Thieves and the Raffle of Doom
By William Sutcliffe
Published by Simon & Schuster
Lots of readers picking up William Sutcliffe's Circus of Thieves will have only a slight idea of what a circus is. Society has changed since the days when children looked forward to watching clowns, acrobats and animals inside a huge tent.
Circuses have had their day - killed off by stricter animal welfare laws and more exciting ways of passing the time. So Sutcliffe is taking a gamble setting his story inside the world of the Big Top.
It's not the sort of story that's usually written for today's sophisticated and savvy teenage readers, but there is still something intriguing about the idea of a circus coming to town. This is especially true if you're Hannah, a bright, inquisitive girl, always looking for something to end the monotony of living in, "The Dullest Town in the Entire World".
One morning she sees a strange procession meandering along the road near her home: "Shank's Impossible Circus" is coming to town.
The procession is being led by a boy sitting on an angry-looking camel. He's followed by twin clowns, a human cannon ball, a French trapeze artist and his Russian assistant, and Armitage Shanks, the boss of the circus.
Hannah climbs up into a tree to get a better look, only to fall on top of Billy, the boy riding the camel.
He soon recovers from the shock of meeting Hannah and invites her to come and help as the circus is being set up. Who wouldn't say yes to that offer?
As they work, Billy tells her that all is not well behind the glitter and glamour of the circus. Armitage is not his real father as everyone believes. Slowly Hannah starts to realise that maybe Ringmaster Shank has more in store for Hannah's hometown than simply entertaining the locals.
Can Hannah and Billy stop the evil circus boss before it is too late? And can Billy find his true parents?
This is quite a short book with basic characters and a simple plot, but it is great fun to read. Sutcliffe often wanders off-track to throw in a clever line, or a laugh-out-loud joke.
He must have had great fun inventing the crazy characters that wander in and out of the story. The word-play, footnotes and sheer daftness of some of his writing is totally off the wall.
This is one circus where there is a danger you might die laughing if you buy a ticket. You have been warned!
John Millen can be contacted at MillenBookshelf@aol.com