My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I loved this Middle Grade paranormal story. It’s one of my favorite books of the year – which is saying something when you consider this is book 105. It’s a joy to read a book with two young men and a girl that’s not a love triangle (there’s no romance in this at all, though I suppose you could read some of it as an awkward attraction between Lucy and Lockwood). I will say for a MG book there is a lot of good horror and suspense in this. Stroud also deftly navigates the common complaint of ‘what rational adult allows young teens get away with this much danger,’ and he keeps it grounded in the mythology surrounding ghost hunting: namely that kids are more sensitive to hauntings and it lessens as we age.
The world Lockwood & Co. exists in has a Problem. Ghosts are haunting everywhere and getting worse all the time. Cold iron and silver keeps them quiet. The touch of a ghost is often fatal. Ghost hunting teams, like the all-mighty Fittes company use young kids to sense and destroy ghosts while former agents, provided they survived the ghost hunting -which most don’t - end up as supervisors to the new youngsters.
Lucy’s abilities – which are strong in hearing ghosts and getting psychic impressions – are her way out of rural poverty but her supervisor basically has lost his nerve and terrible things happen, leaving her to run off to London where she joins up with Lockwood & Co. The company is really just Lockwood, a young man who is strong in ghost sight and has a Sherlock Holmes vibe and George who is less good at sensing ghosts but is aces at research. To her shock, there are no adult supervisors.
When a big case goes sideways, they could lose everything, their home, their license but they are on the trail of a fifty year old mystery. Who killed Anne Ward and turned her into such a nasty ghost? If they can solve that, the good press might save them. And in a way it does, they are offered an insane amount of money to find the Source of the haunting at one of the most viciously haunted mansions in England, one that cost the Fittes agency three members thirty years ago. A former priory where the monks turned to satanism and host many murders and suicides there after, no one has successfully cleared the house. If they even show up, Fairfax, the owner will obliterate their debts and if they succeed they’ll be a wealthy agency to reckon with, not to mention the reputation it would earn them. If they don’t succeed, at best they run off in disgrace, at worst, they’re dead.
It’s tightly plotted with great characters. Lucy (it’s her pov) is a strong female lead but not perfect. She makes mistakes, some serious ones. They all do. They’re imperfectly human and I loved them. I can’t wait to read more. My only really quibbles are that Stroud hits the George is fat bell a few too many times. We get it; he’s chunky. And that I couldn’t figure out what time period this was supposed to be. For the longest time I though it was early twentieth century then maybe the 50s or 60s. There’s no real high tech but then we have energy drinks. So nebulous alternative history it is.
I was given a copy to review via Netgalley so thanks for that. It in no way influenced my review.
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