JACK MAGGS is the sort of book that gives me goosebumps. Something about the characters, about the depth to which Carey tests them, just gets to me, particularly as Carey exposes all their vulnerabilities but also, exposes their strengths. The characters of JACK MAGGS (most notably the title character) are shown to an eerie depth, and it is this that lends the book its drive--it plows onward, relentlessly, and I do mean this in a good way.
A brief summary: Jack Maggs is an escaped convict in the 1830s. He has been exiled to Australia but has, for reasons unknown to everyone but himself, he returns to London with a specific design. As he pursues this, several other characters are drawn in, and the plot, as they say, thickens.