Monday, April 23, 2018

The Whispering Skull

The Whispering Skull
by Jonathan Stroud
Recommended Ages: 12+

In this second ghostly "Lockwood & Co." novel, teen paranormal investigators Anthony Lockwood, Lucy Carlyle and George Cubbins face down another hair-raising haunting while searching for a deadly artifact that has been stolen from a grave they helped dig up. The bone-mirror, created by the notorious Dr. Bickerstaff, has been interred with his bones in an iron coffin that turns up where no one expected to find it. The story of the doctor's death is bad enough. His corpse is nasty. His ghost is full of a powerful menace. But the worst thing is the mirror. George gets only a glimpse of it, and it preys on his mind. Lucy hears the ghost urging them to look in the mirror. As the team soon learns, anyone who does look, dies.

Naturally, as soon as the ghost is laid to rest and the team returns home, someone swipes the mirror. Hired by DEPRAC (the government agency that oversees paranormal agencies), put in direct competition with a snotty team from the Fittes Agency, Lockwood & Co. race to solve the crime. But the mystery deepens as simple theft turns into multiple murders. Involved in the case are a class of haunted-artifact scavengers called relic-men, a brutal black marketeer in forbidden artifacts, and (in case you thought I forgot) a whispering skull, which would be more accurately be described as a sneaky, sarcastic, evil skull trapped with the ghost of its owner in a silver-glass jar. It talks to Lucy, which no ghost has done to any psychic since the great Marissa Fittes. Having it tag along on the trio's investigation may prove helpful, or the skull may try to get them all killed as they explore yet another creepy old house charged with deadly spiritual energy, then track a killer to his lair for an even more dangerous and terrifying confrontation.

Fun character interplay, snappy dialogue, humor, and bone-chilling spookiness - I mean, really, don't read this book at bedtime - are all part of the proven "Lockwood & Co." formula, from the author of the "Bartimaeus" quartet and several other books I have enjoyed. The series continues with The Hollow Boy and, to date, two more.

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