“The Tower, The Zoo and The Tortoise”
Every now and then the dedicated reader is rewarded with a story that is whimsical, touching and hilarious. Such is the case with “The Tower, The Zoo and The Tortoise” by Julia Stuart. The cover art is compelling in its distinctive style and the casual observer is drawn to it as displayed on the counter at PP.
Balthazar and Hebe Jones live in the Tower of London with their 181 year old tortoise, Mrs. Cook. Balthazar is a Beefeater, retired from a lifetime of service to the Queen. Balthazar and Hebe had a son, Milo; Balthazar now collects rain in perfume bottles. Hebe works in London’s Underground Lost Property Office attempting to reunite lost items with their owners. All manner of trifles are left behind on the London train system and it is Hebe’s job to locate the heir-apparent.
The Queen has been receiving exotic animals from dignitaries all over the world and has decided to move the menagerie to the Tower of London. Balthazar becomes overseer to the creatures. The caged characters bring their own brand of hilarity to the story, with complications abounding.
Additional cast bring their own special charm to this entertaining tale. The Reverend Septimus Drew is the Tower chaplain who writes erotic fiction on the side. Valerie Jennings is Hebe’s eccentric colleague who “falls for someone of limited height” and the Ravenmaster who is, well, in charge of the ravens, carries a dark secret which guides his erratic behavior.
The fortress is full of intrigue and the characters in this quirky tale will live on long after the last page is regretfully turned. “The Tower, The Zoo and the Tortoise” is an affecting, endearing and memorable story with characters I hope to meet again in my literary travels. By far one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read this year.