Monday, June 4, 2018

The Empty Grave

The Empty Grave
by Jonathan Stroud
Recommended Ages: 12+

In this fifth and, for now, last book of "Lockwood & Co." a small, independent psychic detective agency faces off against the most powerful woman in the U.K. Penelope Fittes, according to the skull/trapped ghost that talks to agent Lucy Carlyle, is somehow one and the same with her grandmother Marissa, one of the first agents ever to combat the Problem of the unquiet dead. Also, Team Lockwood learns, Ms. Fittes may have something to do with how the Problem started.

To find out what that something was and put a stop to it, they have to dig into secrets that are dangerous to know. How dangerous? Ask research maven George, who gets the stuffing beaten out of him for his efforts. Ask Lockwood, who nearly has his soul sucked out by a vampiric vamp. Ask newest associate Kipps, who shows signs of going the way no one can return. After infiltrating a tomb stuffed with deadly revenants, ridding a theater of a glamour queen who can steal a man's will to live with a single look, breaking into a spooky London club full of psychic weapons and gadgets, and finding a rare pamphlet that reveals a chilling motive behind everything that has befallen the country during the past 50 years, the team learns enough to become too dangerous for Penelope/Marissa to let them live.

What a time, then, for Anthony Lockwood, leader of the agency, to discover that his life, as well as the deaths of his folklorist parents, has more meaning than he ever realized. What a time for Lucy to begin to admit to herself that the possibility of being in love with Lockwood makes her life precious, too. What a time, indeed, for the Lockwood Five to find themselves barricaded inside 35 Portland Row with the sinister black marketeer Jacob Winkman, the nefarious Sir Rupert Gale, and a gang of plug-uglies outside, armed for bloody murder. What a time for their best shot at life to be crossing over into the underworld, from which their only route of escape is through the city of the dead, all the way to the headquarters of their enemy.

During this perilous, physically and spiritually chilling journey, they make fresh discoveries that will raise gooseflesh. They experience thrilling chases, narrow escapes, death-defying battles, and confrontations with terrifying monsters. When they're in the tightest spot of all, and an explosive ending seems inevitable, there comes an unexpected twist on a long-dreaded prophecy. What happens then will be one for the history books, at least in the alternate-history England that exists in this series of books.

If this is really the end of the series, I'm sorry. Even though everything so far seems to build up to this book, the characters, relationships, and magical dynamics of this whole world would be fun to visit again. The fact that I've learned to trust their author to craft an enveloping worldscape and a tightly-paced, well-structured storyline doesn't hurt. Mind you, I'm using the word "fun" in a sense that includes a considerable amount of gibbering horror. But what are a few night terrors between friends?

Jonathan Stroud is the author of a number of books that I have already named in multiple reviews. I think with this book I have actually caught up with him and read them all. Get busy, Stroud! I'm not done with you.

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