Friday, April 27, 2018

The Hollow Boy

The Hollow Boy
by Jonathan Stroud
Recommended Ages: 12+

The third "Lockwood & Co." adventure is the creepiest yet, with London's Chelsea area overrun by ghosts in a paranormal outbreak that one observer describes as "like the end of the world." Independent ghostbusters Lockwood, George and Lucy - joined by a new assistant named Holly, about whom Lucy has some challenging feelings - are at first left out of the all-hands-on-deck investigation. Even as civilization crumbles around them, and in spite of their recent successes, the agency struggles to get any attention from paranormal regulator DEPRAC, except the kind that makes them feel like naughty school children lined up in front of teacher's desk. So they continue about their regular cases, including cracking a series of missing-persons cases that all connect with a particularly haunted boarding house, and exorcising a posh Hanover Square mansion where bloody footprints appear on the staircase every night.

While George wracks his brains, looking for a focal point of the outbreak, Lucy goes against Lockwood's orders and explores her ability to communicate with the dead. Her first experiment turns out all right, when she successfully clears up a haunting without having to destroy the restless spirit, simply by finding out what was troubling it. Later, she puts the whole team in jeopardy when a killer ghost almost tricks her into getting ghost-touched, which would be bad. But when Lockwood & Co., joined by a team of agents from a competing firm, spend a night in London's most haunted department store, Lucy's special knack combines with her emotional conflict to conjure up a night of freak-out-worthy supernatural phenomena. I'm not just saying that. To the extent a book has ever caused my ordinarily wavy, and increasingly thin, hair to stand on end, this book did it. It isn't quite the scariest book I've ever read; I still, for example, haven't chucked a book farther, out of sheer fright, than Stephen King's The Shining. But it's a good exercise for the cardiovascular system, with shock value and suspense and good old fashioned heebie-jeebies. Plus, it also serves up laughs, a touch of romance and some legit, large-scale plot and character development. Readers who, like me, have to wait for their library system to cough up the next installment in the series will be most impatient after the hook this book sets at the end.

Stroud is also the author, etc., etc. — I've said it all before — except this part: Book 4 of this five-book series is The Creeping Shadow.

No comments: