Review Blog

Mar 12 2015

The door that led to where by Sally Gardner

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Hot Key Books, 2015. ISBN 9781471401114
(Age: 13+) Recommended. Time travel. Mystery. Murder. Family relations. Even though AJ Flynn has failed all but English in his GCSE exams, he has been lucky enough to get a job at a London law firm, which is a mystery in itself. When he finds a key labelled with his name and date of birth, he sets out to discover the whereabouts of the door that it opens. He time travels to 1830, a period of time that he has found fascinating because of his love of Charles Dickens, and is enthralled to travel the cobbled streets of Clerkenwell and Holborn, where life is cheap. His friends in modern London are facing difficulties but they find that in 1830 their lives have more meaning as they are treated as young men not as adolescents with no purpose. AJ is also intrigued by a murder that only he can solve and by the mystery of his father who disappeared before he could get to know him
A clever use of time slip back to the 19th century provides a contrast with the difficult life in modern London that AJ and his friends have. Life in both times are vividly brought to life and the contrast between the loneliness and isolation of life in an inner city estate in London with drugs and unemployment and the smelly streets of Dickensian London is well developed. One of the dilemmas that AJ and his friends face is whether to stay in Victorian London or to return to the 21st century.
The reader gets to know AJ really well, as he struggles with his mother who he has dubbed the 'red reptile with the poison tongue' and tries to help his friends who are in trouble. Gardner uses contemporary dialogue with some strong language as she describes the plight of the friends as they face death, drug lords and poverty. AJ comes into his own when he travels back to 1830 and gradually uncovers many mysteries involving murder, poison and madness.
The skilful narration and vivid prose with its contemporary issues, a mystery, sound historical information and a touch of romance create a very enjoyable read and the conclusion leaves an opening for further adventures.
Pat Pledger

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