Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Creeping Shadow

The Creeping Shadow
by Jonathan Stroud
Recommended Ages: 12+

In the fourth installment of "Lockwood & Co.," Lucy Carlyle—the clairvoyant kid with a special knack for communicating with the dead—has quit the agency and gone into business as a private consultant. Things are going OK, but only just OK, until she catches a clue that psychic sources that were supposed to be incinerated are somehow finding their way onto the black market. No sooner does she start investigating this than her informant is murdered practically in front of her, and she's the next victim on the list. With nowhere else to turn, she runs back to Lockwood, George and Holly for protection and help recovering the evil skull-in-a-jar with which she, and only she, can converse.

Meantime, an especially virulent outbreak of ghost-touch in a remote village adjacent to a Rotwell Institute ghost problem research facility leads the four agents, plus Quill Kipps late of the Fittes Agency, on a ghostbusting mission that will put them up against the most dastardly conspiracy they have faced so far. It would be more accurate to say they penetrate deeper into the same conspiracy that is increasingly turning Britain into hell on earth. Both of the country's top paranormal agencies are revealed to be not as heroic as advertised. By the time Lucy, Lockwood and the rest lay the ghosts troubling the village, they will witness the biggest violation of the border between the living and the dead so far. In fact, two of them will have crossed it and been lucky to come back alive.

What more can I say without giving away too many of this book's creepy surprises? It is full of terrifying specters and nearly equally terrifying human villains, with lots of suspense and a yet-to-be-revealed agenda plays out in an alternate-history England where "death is in life and life is in death." The mystery, suspense, intrigue and dark magic are spiced with a touch of romance, some character-driven drama, a goodly measure of humor and a bracing attitude of adventure. Stirred together by the master entertainer who brought us the "Bartimaeus" series, it makes for a chillingly addictive series, the next and latest book of which is The Empty Tomb.

No comments: