This story is set in London in 1857 and mainly features the East End and the Isle of Dogs where Mr Brunel’s great ship is under construction in the dockyard there.
The ship is called Leviathan but was later named the Great Eastern as she was to trade with eastern countries and was built to travel non- stop to the far east. She was the largest ship in the world at that time, so being a fan of Brunel I particularly enjoyed reading this book.
Our hero is Dr Johnathan Silver who is incarcerated in Newgate prison having been found guilty of murdering his wife. He is sharing the cell with another man who tells him that they are going to be freed during the night before they are due to be hanged in the morning.
With some bribery of the guards and administration of sleeping draughts they are rescued by the man’s young daughter who is dressed as a boy. They make their escape over the roof tops of the jail but the old boy slips off the roof and is killed, but undaunted his daughter Eliza still helps Silver to escape, especially as he had stopped her sliding off the roof too.
Eliza takes him back to her chandlery shop in the east end where he decides to find out who actually killed his wife because we soon learn that it was not him and he was wrongly accused.
He suspects the senior engineer working on the Leviathan’s engines, as he was a previous suitor of his wife, and using Eliza’s contacts at the shipyard he gets a job as a carpenter working on the massive slipway being built to launch the Leviathan.
And so we follow Silver in his hunt for justice, aided and abetted by Eliza who it turns out is an accomplished cat burglar, breaking into rich people’s home to steal their jewellery.
It is a great story as you learn what it was like living in London in those days with all the unpleasant smells, the smoke and the complete lack of any health and safety measures!