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Two Crafty Criminals!: and how they were…
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Two Crafty Criminals!: and how they were Captured by the Daring Detectives…

by Philip Pullman

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The volume contains two adventures, both of which are enjoyable, witty and smart. Are they ​The Golden Compass?​ Of course not. But if you're a fan of Pullman's other short stories, you won't be disappointed. And, as usual, he excels at taking random events and merging them into one epic conclusion. This would be excellent as a read-aloud book. ( )
  leftik | Apr 3, 2013 |
The minute I saw this one in NetGalley, I wanted it desperately, because I loved the His Dark Materials series. Two Crafty Criminals is quite a different story than those books. In fact, the book isn't so much a book as two shorter books bound into one. This could just as easily have been published as two volumes in a series.

Two Crafty Criminals! reads kind of like a television show for kids, one where they solve mysteries or commit hijinks along a particular plot line in each episode. The third person narration follows around the various members of the New Cut Gang in their detecting. The kids are quirky, especially the youngest one Sharky (who doesn't appear in the second story, except in a mention), who reminded me of the baby from the Lemony Snicket series, because he also will chew/eat ANYTHING. And I mean anything.

The first episode, entitled "Thunderbolt's Wax," centers around the mystery of the counterfeited coins being spent in the gang's little town. When Thunderbolt's father is arrested, they feel that they must prove his innocence by finding the true criminal. A second plot line, which I found slightly clunky, involved them desperately trying to get their friend (a food vendor) a waxwork of himself in the museum. This was probably my favorite of the two stories, despite the bit of awkwardness. The kids are quirky and fun, and the mystery was relatively interesting, albeit simple for the children.

The second tale, "The Gas-Fitters' Ball," also involved a crime to be solved, but that definitely did not feel like the central part. In fact, this story was more about children gambling on whether or not a man will propose to the prettiest girl in town. To help their odds, they try, in various ways, to help his suit, but, unsurprisingly, young children don't make the best matchmakers. Along the way, they solve the case of the stolen silver.

Obviously, I wasn't overwhelmed by the plotting of either tale. Both had good elements, but didn't seem well-balanced. Neither seemed to successfully weave the two main plot threads together. HOWEVER, the writing is delightful. Philip Pullman has a way with language, and that made these a joy to read. I would really recommend parents reading these aloud to children, because some of the words might be seriously confounding to young readers. It would also probably lend itself well to narration. Oh, brief PSA, if you're a parent and you don't read to your child, you totally should. My parents did for years and years, and I am so grateful for that.

The book comes off as a sort of mashup between Scooby Doo and The Mysterious Benedict Society, perhaps with a dash of Newsies for British flair. It's quick and fun, and even has pictures! The last sentence of the description actually sums it up quite well, so if you like those things, get to a bookstore with speed ( )
  A_Reader_of_Fictions | Apr 1, 2013 |
The kids of the New Cut Gang live in that charmed and whimsical world children inhabit until the crush of adulthood and responsibility; adults fall in line with their demands and nothing is impossible for the likes of Benny, Thunderbolt, Bridie and Sharky Boy - not even uncovering dastardly criminals or even meeting the Prince of Wales. Philip Pullman's latest publication might not stand level with the likes of the His Dark Materials trilogy but Two Crafty Criminals will certainly make for a diverting and thoroughly charming entertainment for middle-grade children it is aimed at.

Two Crafty Criminals is not one novel but rather is a book containing of two entirely different stories set within the New Cut Gang - a constantly shifting alliance of meddlesome and cheeky pre-teens in Victorian London. While both stories are big on fun and short on filler, the first, Thunderbolt's Waxwork, definitely had the advantage of being first and thus, the more original of the two. With characters like the charismatic Benny running the show and the Gang, earnest and kind Thunderbolt, and strict Bridie managing the scene-stealer Sharky Boy, Pullman eases the reader into a light-hearted but clever mystery set in 1894. Benny, especially, he of the big dreams and even bigger schemes, seems drawn entirely from the period pictured ("Foller him everywhere, like a shadder..") but all the kids shown in both are different, with easy to identify personalities (especially the twins! And Sharky Boy). The Gas Fitter's Ball, the second of the two, retains the humor and cheek of the first without sacrificing ingenuity or an entirely new mystery for the Gang to "detect".

I read this entire book with an amused smile on my day. Even more than ten years removed from the target audience, Pullman's foray into Victorian London sleuthing is nearly pitch-perfect and enjoyable from start to end; only its extreme length makes for any quibbles. I think even the younger, intended readers would appreciate a little more length extended to both stories, populated as they are with such colorful kids and adults. There's an awful lot of imagination at play within Two Crafty Criminals, and if jailbreaks, robberies, reported hauntings, balls and get-rich-quick schemes in addition to pre-teen Victorian detectives, don't float your boat...well, there's something wrong with you. ( )
  msjessie | Feb 5, 2013 |
This is literally a book about two criminals, as told in two different stories. And it has been a joy to read about the children of the New Cut Gang and their adventures. The two primary characters are Benny, the leader, and Thunderbolt, a smart kid nicknamed as such after he knocked down a member of another gang.

The members of the New Cut Gang have distinct, merry personalities. The key characters all take a turn at telling their part of the story as needed for the plot to move forward, and it was a pleasure getting to know all of them from Benny and his hyper-active imagination to Thunderbolt's timid nature to the twins and their cleverness.

In fact, each member of the gang is a bit too clever for their own good. They get no amusement from school and instead spend their time searching for adventure. When cases pop up that spark their interest, they will go to all lengths of trouble getting involved, solving detective cases to protect the innocent and getting mixed up in a case of "love phobia" to win a bet.

Readers of all ages will enjoy the misadventures of the New Cut Gang. While told in a different style than Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, the fact remains that Pullman is a brilliant storyteller. Two Crafty Criminals has humor, odd heros, and action. I highly recommend reading it if you're looking for a fun read. ( )
1 vote summerskris | Jun 5, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375870296, Hardcover)

Benny Kaminsky and Thunderbolt Dobney lead a rag-tag gang of neighborhood rowdies. Their territory is the New Cut on London's South Bank—a place bristling with swindlers, bookies, pickpockets, and the occasional policeman. And their aim is to solve crimes.

When counterfeit coins start showing up in their neighborhood, Thunderbolt fears his own father may be behind the crime. But his friends devise a way to trap the real culprit. Then the gang takes on the case of some stolen silver. They have just two clues—a blob of wax, and an unusually long match. But even this slippery thief is unmasked by the determined kids of the New Cut.

Filled with silly sleuthing, improbable disguises, crazy ruses, and merry mayhem, these stories are action-packed romps from one of the best storytellers ever—Philip Pullman.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:20:11 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Eleven-year-old Benny Kaminsky leads a rag-tag gang of neighborhood children as they use improbable disguises and crazy ruses while investigating such crimes as counterfeiting and stolen silver in 1894 London.

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