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Two Crafty Criminals:
and how they were Captured by the Daring Detectives of the New Cut Gang
Phillip Pullman

Knopf Books for Young Readers
May 8, 2012 / ISBN 978-0375870293
Genre Children Ages 9-12
Historical Mystery, 1892 London

Reviewed by Beth E. McKenzie

Two Crafty Criminals contains two novellas set in late Victorian London: 'Thunderbolt's Waxwork' and 'The Gasfitters' Ball'.

The New Cut Gang is a group of children and early teens that run together in an area of London called New Cut. In the late 19th century this area was best known for the number of poor families that lived there. The ring-leaders of the New Cut Gang are Sam "Thunderbolt" Dobney, Benny Kaminsky, red-haired Bridie Malone and her large family that includes Little Sharky Bob (who wins bets for the gang by eating anything), the Peretti twins (Angela and Zerlina who were more frightening when they weren't up to mischief). Benny, the boss, is fond of detecting and takes advantage of his "experience" with the great detective Mr. Sexton Blake. Thunderbolt collects things and studies hard while Bridie organizes and tells them what to do.

Thunderbolt's Waxwork
Thunderbolts's father is arrested for an unknown crime, which coincides with counterfeit coins being passed in the neighborhood and a series of break-ins at the Dobney home. Mr. Dobney is an inventor and he is normally pleased to share his creative corner with his son, but lately he has been secretive and receiving mysterious visitors in the locked basement. Could his father be the counterfeiter and his cohorts trying to steal the remaining coins? But why are the thieves always looking for the wax figure the gang made in honor of their friend Dobby, the Horse Chestnut Seller and Philanthropist? They need to get it in the wax figure museum before it is stolen or Sharky Bob eats the nose again!

The Gasfitter's Ball
The silver regalia and trophies are stolen from the Worshipful Company of Gas-Fitters Hall and Benny, with a Swedish Lucifer, a blob of wax and his well-honed detecting skills follows the clues to where it is hidden, but who put it there? But the real challenge is how to get Dick Smith, who is in love with Daisy Miller, to tell her. That's a miracle that even the Peretti twins can't pull off. They need the help of a thief, a strong-man, a band leader, a bookie, sliced cucumber skins, and a royally mysterious guest at the Gas-Fitters Ball as they try to bring the befuddled couple to the altar.

Reviewer's Note: The stories in this book were published in 2011 under the title 'The Adventures of the New Cut Gang' by David Fickling Books and both novellas were individually published in the mid-1990 by Viking Children's Books.
Reviewed 2012