Although not typical holiday fare, Mr. Timothy picks up some of Dickens’ characters about 20 years after A Christmas Carol and has the added similarity of being set at Christmas time. The main character is Timothy Cratchitt, familiar to us as Tiny Tim.
Timothy is depressed and aimless. The patronage of Ebenezer Scrooge, or Uncle N as he is known in this novel, has had the unfortunate effect of making Timothy dissatisfied with his roots while not fitting him for much else. Most of his family has died or moved away, and he is depressed about the death of his father six months before. In despair, he has left his usual haunts and gone to live in a brothel, where he teaches the owner, Mrs. Sharpe, how to read. Although he has some desire to make his own way, he lacks purpose and initiative, still accepting an allowance from Uncle N. He seems to be on his way down in life.
Timothy goes out dragging the river for bodies one night with his friend Captain Gully, and they pull out a young girl. She has an odd brand on her back, like a G with eyes. Timothy realizes he has seen this brand before, on another girl the police were examining as he went by, who was found dead in an alley.
Timothy has several times spotted another young girl around the city and tried to approach her, but she has always run away. With the help of a street urchin named Colin, he finally tracks her down. Philomela is Italian and has had something traumatic happen to her of which she will not speak. When Timothy tries to take her home to safety, two different parties attempt to remove her from his custody on the street. A charity worker insists she will take Philomela to a home, and a mysterious man in a coach tries to kidnap her. Philomela and Timothy get away, but now Timothy is determined to find out what is going on.
This novel is a slow starter and fairly depressing at the beginning. Although it is feasible to theorize that Scrooge’s help could result in such unhappiness (ala Great Expectations), I wasn’t sure I wanted to think of the original story in these terms. However, the novel successfully invokes a Dickensian atmosphere, including the comic characters and character names, and it picks up its pace as Timothy gets involved in the mystery. After the first 50 pages or so, I was involved and trying to figure out the mystery, which is as entangled as any Dickens effort.