When I finish the last page of a book such as The Tower, The Zoo and The Tortoise, I feel happy that I spent time with such a wonderful story, but at the same time I’m sad that I have to say good-bye to a such an interesting cast of characters.
The novel is set in the Tower of London and the people who keep it operational – they are required to live on the Tower Grounds. The main character is Balthazar Jones, a Yeoman Warder (aka Beefeater) who is asked by a representative of the Queen to oversee a new Royal Menagerie being established at the Tower. This provides some distraction to Balthazar, who, with his wife Hebe – an employee at the Lost Property Office of the London Underground - are still dealing (not dealing, really) with the death of their young son Milo.
But all is not bleak in this story, thanks to a very quirky group of supporting characters’, the most notable of whom are Reverend Septimus Drew, who harbors a crush on the Tower Pub’s landlady and who in his spare time writes erotic fiction; and Valerie Jennings, Hebe’s colleague at the Lost Property Office, who finds herself in a confusing relationship with a ticket collector who frequently brings her objects he’s found on the Tube. Oh, and let’s not forget Mrs. Cook, Balthazar & Hebe’s 181-year old tortoise.
This novel is a fun look at the Tower of London and the London Underground – their day-to-day functioning and their colorful histories. It also has very touching passages about love and loss. I laughed and cried while reading it, but through it all I smiled. A very enjoyable book.