Creature Comforts

Chris Priestley is a master storyteller.  His books about Tom Marlow and his mysterious adventures are some of the most popular books, especially with my boy readers.  With Mister Creecher, he takes on the Frankenstein monster story and tells it very well and in the spirit of Mary Shelley’s original tale.

Billy is a street urchin eking out a living as a pick-pocket.  It’s not a lucrative venture and comes with many, many dangers.  One of them is a fellow pick-pocket named Fletcher.  One  fateful day, he Billy comes across what seems to be an enormous, grotesque dead body in the alley.  He is about to search it for any trinkets that he could sell when Fletcher comes upon the scene.  He threatens to call the constable, and claim that Billy killed the man when suddenly that hulking form moves!  It grabs hold of one of Fletcher’s boys, instantly shattering the bones.  The others turn tail and flee leaving Billy alone with the giant…at which point he passes out.  When he wakes, he is warm and sheltered from London’s nasty weather but his savior turns out to be none other than the giant who calls himself Mr. Creecher.  So begins a dubious relationship.  As the boy and the giant travel together, a bond begins to grow between them but there are secrets that the giant holds, secrets that could destroy them.  How much is friendship worth and to what lengths will Billy and Creecher go for each other?

This is the Frankenstein story from the monster’s point of view.  The story is woven together in such a way that Billy and Creecher’s relationship is wholly believable.  Creecher is an intriguing character.  At once a hideous monster, capable of great violence and a deeply moral person.  Billy delights in thievery but does not understand the wrongness of his actions.  As with his other novels, there are many exciting fight scenes and dangerous circumstances.  But there are also tender moments as Billy and Creecher become friends or when Billy finally understands Creecher’s deep need for the female creature that Frankenstein is building for him.  The ending is very difficult to read and is very sad but, somehow, fitting.  Frankenstein is not a happy story with a happily ever after ending.

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