Leon Garfield Jean C. Thomson - Essay

Jean C. Thomson

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

If readers of Stevenson delighted in "Jack Holborn," Garfield's first book, "Devil-in-the-Fog" will suit devotees of Dickens. Such comparisons are only approximate, for this author's inventions are original, and his tempo is modern. He writes with such dazzling ease that all else falls effortlessly into place, and his artistry is more satisfying than any conjurer's—begging Mr. Treet's pardon. (p. 55)

Jean C. Thomson, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1966 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission). November 20, 1966.

Devil-in-the-Fog [is] doubly disappointing after the author's Jack Holborn. Mr. Garfield's earthy, fantastic style, so at home in an exotic pirate setting, here seems altogether too clever. It was a mistake to make the young travelling actor George recount his own adventures. He speaks in character ("Oh God, I whsipered, Why? Why?") and his eighteenth-century grammar, even if accurate, is difficult to read. When the mysterious stranger who overshadows the lives of the Treets pays his last visit and George takes up his apparently rightful position as son and heir to Sir John Dexter, strange characters crowd confusingly in…. The identity of the wicked Principal remains a fairly good secret until the end. There are humorous moments, like the seven little Treets perched on the stocks where their father sits, but that gentleman, reminiscent of both Vincent Crummles and Wilkins Micawber, scarcely merits George's extravagant adulation. The characters of eighteenth-century high life are unreal, and we feel little involvement until the end, when George finds himself back among those who love him for his own sake. (p. 1078)

The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1966; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), November 24, 1966.