Charlton Daines has with graceful aplomb crafted a masterful and winning tale, craftily adopting the tone, lingua franca and communal sin qua non of olde tyme London. The tale blips along quite naturally, all being of one with its Olive Twist beginnings as it swiftly toggles from Jack Dawkins in his natural "petty thief" state, to the new and improved Jack Dawkins who so smoothly acquaints and inserts himself into polite society. Naturally, it is only a matter of negligible time before Dawkins runs head on into his old cohort, Oliver Twist, who has cleanly moved in to and adopted the habits, manners, and air of upper crust society.
A world of seemingly impenetrable suspicions mars their first meeting. Oliver, who expresses to Jack, "Once a thief, always a thief," is understandably concerned about his old acquaintance's ability to shake his old persona. Jack, aka Artful Dodger, receives this pronouncement as a right hook to the head.
Here forward, the tale twists and turns and rises and falls on many incidental and ultimately incendiary developments, pushing Jack Dawkins to the outermost limits of his wily character and its permutations as a fierce internal struggle rages, leaving him unquestionably at odds with his scandalous actions as he moves deeper and deeper into a world he had only known antagonistically as the Artful Dodger, only to face it now head on with a susurrating, closely held hope that he may one day be fully accepted into this world, much like Pinocchio wishing ever so dearly to become a "real boy."
As rehabilitative efforts have been reported to have no appreciable effect on recidivism, the criminal justice system's efforts to rehabilitate offenders have failed. With hope springing eternal, Jack Dawkins proceeds with trilling trepidation, deeply haunted as he finds painful the truism "old habits die hard."
In this well-crafted saga, Daines has whipped up not only a study on criminology, but what may very well have been the continuing tale of the Artful Dodger had Dickens so chosen to pursue it to its logical conclusion. If the story of Oliver Twist has a lingering resonance with you, it is strongly recommended you read this indispensable work of Charlton Daines. Not only does it serve as worthy companion to its engendering tale of old world London, but it is a tale that Dickens himself would no doubt approve without compunction.
C.B. Smith, author of Love, Knuckles and Melody Genesis
(reviewed 25 days after purchase)