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The Great Stink by Clare Clark
The Great Stink refers to the London sewer system in the mid-19th century. In 1855, William May works in the sewers, being redesigned after cholera outbreaks, but he's suffering from horrific memories of the Crimean War and cuts himself to relieve his pain. His story alternates with Long Arm Tom, a tosher who scavenges items from the sewers that he can sell for a profit, including rats. His livelihood depends on the sewers remaining a filthy place few will venture. When William is accused of murder, which even has him questioning his own innocence during his bouts of madness, Tom plays a pivotal role of turning attention toward him. Clare Clark's reconstruction of the dirty world beneath the city has received positive reviews. The Washington Post says, "With its intense olfactory workout, The Great Stink won't be to everyone's taste, but it's a rich work of history and a gripping exploration of the unmentionable currents that run beneath the surface of our lives -- and it reeks of talent."