Dickens Dark London will thrill interactive book enthusiasts as much as its title will irk grammar purists. It's an app of two halves. First, you get a zoomable, dragable map of Victorian London, which can be superimposed over a modern street map (a bit like Time Travel Explorer, for aficionados of such things). This then leads you into a series of extracts from Dickens's works, bringing to life the dingier side of 19th Century London.
The first 'edition' focuses on Seven Dials, that benighted sector once characterised by London's deepest poverty. Short text extracts from Sketches by Boz are narrated by Mark Strong (the bad fellow out of the first Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes film). These are deftly illustrated by David Foldvari, whose black and white images lend much of the atmosphere to the app. Tapping the screen brings up supporting information about the destitute of Seven Dials. A 'bonus edition' then stumbles through the London fog, with two readings from Bleak House.
The ensemble works beautifully on iPad, combining maps, archive photos, sketches, text and audio into a coherent package. It's best absorbed late at night, curled up in bed, with the tablet as your only source of illumination. What would the poor wretches of the rookery have made of this? You, cosy and warm beneath a duvet, listening to the disembodied voice of a famed actor, emanating from a glowing slate with no apparent gas source. Magical.
Dickens Dark London is available for free for iPad and iPhone. The app is free, with future installments at £1.49 each. Canny business sense. Now, who's going to leave the mandatory comment about Android/Blackberry versions?