Lockwood and Co: The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud

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Lockwood and Co: The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud

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Buy Lockwood and Co: The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: Dealing with the wiles and ruses of a variety of evil ghosts is bad enough, but add in a rival team determined to put Lockwood, Lucy and George out of business, plus a skull in a jar that just won't stop talking (except when they desperately need information), and mayhem is sure to follow.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 486 Date: September 2014
Publisher: Doubleday
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780857532657

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No one knows why ghosts have begun rising in such overwhelming numbers, threatening a terrible death to anyone they touch, and the fact that only children and young people can see them just makes everything that bit more mysterious. And it's no exaggeration to say that the members of the smallest and shabbiest psychic detection agency in Britain have their hands full in this, their second adventure. Their recent successes have brought in plenty of work, but also jealousy: their rivals from the well-funded Fittes Agency are determined not only to make them fail, but to make them look as stupid and incompetent as possible in the process.

Lockwood, the teenage owner of the house-cum-office he shares with Lucy and George, is as ever supremely confident: he is full of swagger and panache (imagine a younger version of Benedict Cumberbatch complete with floppy fringe and that Sherlock coat) and somehow, despite their misgivings, he manages to persuade the other two to follow him into danger after danger. But despite his charisma, problems and questions bubble up under the surface, threatening to tear the little agency apart. Lucy's ability to hear ghosts speak is getting stronger, but that only gives the spiteful inhabitant of the glass jar the opportunity to point out to her that Lockwood is not being entirely honest with his companions, and eventually all three young people find themselves keeping dangerous secrets. Definitely not a good time for a sinister and deadly mirror to fall into the hands of the wrong people: the race is soon on to find and destroy the mirror before a lot of people – themselves included – face a horrible death.

The book has a fascinating setting. It is situated in London, meaning there are lots of encounters, escapades and near-misses round the docks, Wimbledon Common and the vast cemeteries like Kensal Green, and in many ways it is Victorian in feel: lanterns that barely pierce the mist, madmen locked up in asylums, chipper little cockney lads with an eye to turning a quick profit, and a world where darkness invariably means menace and peril. And yet, there are elements of today there too: Lockwood uses Velcro to attach his sword to his belt, and George, their research expert, cleans his glasses after a spot of grave-digging on a T-shirt which is never anything but extremely grubby. It's now but it's not now, and this combination, expertly handled as ever by the excellent Jonathan Stroud, allows the reader to identify with our three heroes without getting too close to the gruesomeness that their work entails. As in the first volume there are plenty of heart-stopping moments and a generous dollop of gore, but nothing most teens and confident readers can't handle: in fact, the problem will be to persuade them to put the book down. In short, it's both gross and engrossing!

Like all good books, this one can certainly be read on its own. But you'll definitely gain a lot of insight into the details of the work of these courageous ghost-hunters (tea-bags, anyone?) if you start with Lockwood and Co: The Screaming Staircase. And for bloodthirsty gods and demons in a more exotic setting, try Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda.

Buy Lockwood and Co: The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Lockwood and Co: The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Lockwood and Co: The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Lockwood and Co: The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud at Amazon.com.

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