cover image Marley


Jon Clinch. Atria, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-1-982129-70-5

Clinch’s gripping tale spins a dark backstory for two of Dickens’s most notorious characters, Jacob Marley and Ebenezer Scrooge. As soon as Marley encounters Scrooge during dank boarding school days, he embarks upon his life of financial shenanigans, beginning with misappropriating Scrooge’s meager allowance. In London, the two ambitious young entrepreneurs join forces, but Marley is ever the swindler, concealing profits and their continued involvement in the slave trade as Scrooge beavers away at their accounts. They court the worthy young women readers know: Scrooge’s sister Fan, and the beautiful Belle, threatened with destitution. Loved by Belle, Scrooge softens, but Marley goes deeper into nefarious dirty dealing. In this version of the story, Marley is the nastier piece of work, breaking Fan’s heart and so defrauding Scrooge as to make him believe he must abandon Belle. Clinch terrifies his readers by flinging Dickens’s beloved characters into Marley’s fires, winding the plot strings so tight it’s almost unbearable. The bait-and-switch ending—in which the author must sync his story with the one with which we are familiar—is the only flaw in an otherwise canny book. If A Christmas Carol tugs at the heartstrings, Clinch’s novel deepens the story to eviscerate the whole heart. [em](Oct.) [/em]