The Great Trouble
A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel
The suspenseful tale of two courageous kids and one inquisitive scientist who teamed up to stop an epidemic.
“A delightful combination of race-against-the-clock medical mystery and outwit-the-bad-guys adventure.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred
Eel has troubles of his own: As an orphan and a “mudlark,” he spends his days in the filthy River Thames, searching for bits of things to sell. He’s being hunted by Fisheye Bill Tyler, and a nastier man never walked the streets of London. And he’s got a secret that costs him four precious shillings a week to keep safe. But even for Eel, things aren’t so bad until that fateful August day in 1854—the day the deadly cholera epidemic (“blue death”) comes to Broad Street.
Everyone believes that cholera is spread through poisonous air. But one man, Dr. John Snow, has a different theory. As the epidemic surges, it’s up to Eel and his best friend, Florrie, to gather evidence to prove Dr. Snow’s theory—before the entire neighborhood is wiped out.
“Hopkinson illuminates a pivotal chapter in the history of public health. . . . Accessible . . . and entertaining.” —School Library Journal, Starred
“For [readers] who love suspense, drama, and mystery.” —TIME for Kids
Set amid the 1854 London cholera outbreak, Hopkinson's attention-grabbing story of Eel, an orphan who survives by combing the filthy banks of the Thames for anything he might sell, is a delightful combination of race-against-the-clock medical mystery and outwit-the-bad-guys adventure. Eel, a hardworking and bighearted kid with no shortage of crummy luck, is being hunted by a notoriously mean crook, who happens to be his stepfather. When the first cholera case hits, the town blames the polluted air, but Eel and his mentor, Dr. Snow, have a different theory that it's being spread through a local water pump which they set out to prove before the death toll escalates further. Hopkinson (Titanic: Voices from the Disaster) adeptly recreates the crowded, infested streets of London, but it's her distinct, layered characters and turbulent, yet believable plot that make this a captivating read. As the deadly disease worsens, Dr. Snow and Eel's deadline looms, and Eel's past closes in on him, readers will feel the same sense of urgency and excitement as the characters themselves. Ages 10 up.