|Cover artist||Paul Kidby|
|Publication date||13 September 2012 (UK)|
Dodger is a non-Discworld novel written by Terry Pratchett, set in early Victorian London, and inspired by Charles Dickens' character the Artful Dodger. The book was released on 13 September 2012 in the UK.
One night on the streets of London, a battered young woman leaps from a carriage, followed and assaulted by two men. The protagonist Dodger, a street urchin emerging from a sewer drain, comes to her help and chases away the attackers. This is witnessed by two gentlemen, Charlie and Henry, who take the girl to the latter's nearby home, accompanied by Dodger. A doctor treats her injuries and discovers that she was pregnant and the child lost.
Dodger's actions impress the gentlemen, as does the genuine affection they quickly see growing between him and the girl, who is tentatively called Simplicity. Charlie gives Dodger the task of finding information on the streets about her and the carriage from which she escaped. During the next days, Dodger thwarts a robbery attempt at the offices of the Morning Chronicle when meeting Charlie, and causes the arrest of a murderous barber named Sweeney Todd when he tries to improve his appearance before meeting Simplicity. These incidents turn Dodger into a celebrity, which helps him gather information, but also make it impossible for him to stay anonymous. This endangers Simplicity and prompts Charlie to have her moved to the house of his rich friend Angela Burdett-Coutts.
Through their activities (and from the recovered Simplicity herself), Charlie and Dodger learn that the girl had secretly married a prince of one of the German states and thereby become an obstacle to a planned political marriage. Her husband had then done nothing against his family's decision to destroy all evidence of the unsanctioned marriage, including Simplicity herself - the vicar and two witnesses to the wedding have already been killed.
This political dimension of the case (along with his celebrity status) soon have Dodger meet some of the Empire's top politicians, such as Benjamin Disraeli and Robert Peel. He learns that the family of Simplicity's husband is pressuring the British government to return her, and that the government cannot outright refuse this demand. Additionally, a mysterious assassin known only as the Outlander is rumored to be looking for Dodger and Simplicity.
Dodger decides that the only solution is to fake Simplicity's death. Through subterfuge, he acquires the body of a girl looking similar to Simplicity who had died through suicide, and prepares it to be found after a faked attack (during which the real Simplicity would hide) witnessed by Charlie and Disraeli during a planned excursion into London's sewers. The plan is nearly foiled when the Outlander appears, turning out to be a woman. However, with the help of Simplicity, Dodger manages to defeat the assassin and go through with the plan after all. The two young lovers hide a while in Somerset and then return to London, where Dodger has an audience with Queen Victoria and is offered to work as a spy for the government, which he accepts as it suits his talents.
- Dodger, the main protagonist. Earns his livelihood as a tosher; looking for valuables in the sewers. Early in the story, (Chapter two, "In which Dodger meets a dying man and a dying man meets his Lady; and Dodger becomes king of the toshers") is given the title "king of the toshers". Considers himself a geezer.
- Simplicity, a girl who has seen a fairy tale marriage turn into a nightmare, but turns out to be surprisingly robust, courageous and not simple at all. We never learn her original name, and after her faked death she is renamed Serendipity.
- Solomon Cohen, an elderly gentleman of the Jewish persuasion who lives with Dodger in the Seven Dials rookery and acts as his mentor. He has traveled the whole world and has friends (or at least acquaintances) in surprisingly high places, as well as a very smelly dog called Onan.
- Charlie (Charles Dickens), a gentleman who knows the ins and outs of the world and likes to write down things.
- Henry Mayhew, Charlie's friend who (together with his wife) takes care of Simplicity while she recovers. Dodger is dedicated to him in honor of his work in drawing attention to the plight of London's poorest through his book London Labour and the London Poor.
- Angela Burdett-Coutts, the richest woman in the world, apart perhaps from a queen here and there. Seems to know everyone who is important and powerful. Uses her money and connections to help those who need it.
- Benjamin Disraeli, up-and-coming young politician and friend of Charlie's. Somebody who sees that there are two sides to every question.
- Sir Robert Peel, the head of all the policemen in London. Even today they are called "peelers" or "bobbies" after him, since he reorganized the police force with the goal not to catch criminals, but to reduce crime.
- The Outlander, an attractive woman with an unplaceable accent who kills people for considerable sums of money. The authorities have been finding it hard to catch a man who seems to look different every time he commits a crime, failing to notice that there is always the same woman at his side.
- Mr. Tenniel, an illustrator for "Punch" who completes an illustration of Dodger.
- Sweeney Todd, a barber traumatized by his experiences in the Napoleonic Wars. He sees the soldiers he could not save back then coming back to life, which is unfortunate when his work involves putting a razor to the throat of living people. Dodger becomes a hero by disarming him, but feels nothing but pity for the man and uses some of the money he comes into to improve Sweeney's life in Bedlam.
According to the author's afterword, the story is set "broadly in the first quarter of Queen Victoria's reign", which would be between 1837 and 1853. However, Pratchett had to "tweak" history a little to get the combination of persons he wanted in place: specifically, Sir Robert Peel is shown as Home Secretary, which he was under Victoria's predecessor William IV.