AJ Flynn has just failed all but one of his GCSEs, and his future is looking far from rosy. So when he is offered a junior position at a London law firm he hopes his life is about to change - but he could never have imagined by how much.
Tidying up the archive one day, AJ finds an old key, mysteriously labelled with his name and date of birth - and he becomes determined to find the door that fits the key. And so begins an amazing journey to a very real and tangible past - 1830, to be precise - where the streets of modern Clerkenwell are replaced with cobbles and carts, and the law can be twisted to suit a villain's means. Although life in 1830 is cheap, AJ and his friends quickly find that their own lives have much more value. They've gone from sad youth statistics to young men with purpose - and at the heart of everything lies a crime that only they can solve. But with enemies all around, can they unravel the mysteries of the past, before it unravels them?
Hot Key 2015
288 pages in paperback – read courtesy of NetGalley
My goodness, Sally Gardner can write in a variety of styles – from the jolly capers of the Wings & Co. books for younger readers via the extraordinary Maggot Moon to the marvellously dark fairy tale of Tinder. Yet The Door that Led to Where is different again.
It begins in a contemporary, recognisable London with almost-17-year-old AJ. Many readers will feel for his difficult circumstances - and warm to his sense of humour. But then there’s added time travel – which brings its own set of perils and challenges to his complicated life.
It’s more than a touch Dickensian – but as if in a Simon Pegg film. Moments of visual and character-driven comedy lighten the adventures in the dark streets – and there’s a mystery to puzzle out. That may make it sound a bit superficial – but friendship and family are right at the heart of the story.
For me, AJ and Elsie are a particular highlight. I don’t give spoilers but seeing relationships across generations gives extra depth to a story – think of Boy in the Tower by Polly Ho -Yen. I would also mention the eclectic mind of largely self-taught AJ – we’re close to it most of the time – and it’s so entertaining.
I would say experienced readers would get the best out of The Door that Led to Where – it has a complex plot and the language is mature at times. (Though under the circumstances, actually quite restrained!)
Perfect for those who love London, history, and adventures with lots of threat.
The US cover captures the spirit of the book admirably.
K. M. Lockwood lives by the sea in Sussex - see the pics on Instagram. She fills jars with sea-glass, writes on a very old desk and reads way past her bedtime. Her tiny bed-and-breakfast is stuffed full of books - and even the breakfasts are named after writers. You're always welcome to chat stories with @lockwoodwriter on Twitter.