My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book made it official. I love this series. While it might be a bit scary from some middle-schoolers, it also has a great deal of agency for the narrator, Lucy. While Lockwood is the head of the Lockwood agency, Lucy and George are treated as equal partners, each with their own role to fill: Lockwood as the beguiling, somewhat Sherlockian head of the company, Lucy with the crazy ghost-hearing Talent (along with the psychometry to go with it) and George as research boy.
I was, admittedly, a bit disheartened by the opening where we have Kipps and his band of agents from the famous Fittes agency scooping Lockwood and company again and they enter an ill-considered contest to solve the next case and the loser has to take out a huge ad in the paper embarrassing themselves. While underdogs play well with readers, including me, Lockwood, Lucy and George are all ready that as they’re a trio trying to hold their own against huge agencies of many kids with ghost-seeing Talents. Kipps and his team come across as bullies. Maybe a younger reader would empathize with Lucy and the boys but me (much older than the target) it just brought up a lot of bad memories.
Anyhow the next case is fascinating really. The dead are coming back as ghosts for the last fifty years and only kids and young adults can hear and see them (which makes sense plot wise because why else would kids be doing such dangerous work) and teams like Lockwood’s are hired to destroy the Source of the haunting in order to stop it. This time it’s in a cemetery where they find a man, Bickerstaff, in an iron coffin with a strange item, a mirror in a frame of bones. George catches a glimpse and is nearly killed. The item is stolen and one of the thieves is killed by the boneglass before he’s even out of the cemetery.
Lockwood and his friends are now in competition with Kipps and the Fittes agency to get this boneglass back. George finds an adult who shares his love of antiquities and research, Mr. Joplin, one of the men who works to make the cemeteries a safer place. With his help, George starts research into the case (after making a huge blunder in the books opener). Meanwhile Lockwood and Lucy are busy doing something a bit illegal, using one of Lockwood’s contacts a relic-girl, Flo (They are kids with enough ghost hunting Talent to find sources but sell them to wealthy, ill-minded collectors).
There are two other interesting side stories as well. Lucy is now able to talk to the titular skull, a true class three phantasm and she’s the first since the famous Marissa Fittes to be able to do it. However, the skull isn’t exactly truthful and loves to sow trouble, especially between the friends. The other is something is going on with Fittes’s granddaughter and a group who might not be on the up and up.
The story is non-stop action while a good deal of character growth. For example, there is a humanizing moment for Kipps as he talks to Lucy about how hard it is once you age out of your Talent or Lucy recognizing that she and Lockwood aren’t always as nice to George as they could be. If there is one sour note in this series for me, it’s that George isn’t just fat, he’s slovenly and fat and sloppy is such a negative stereotype (yes, of course there are fat sloppy people but you know what I mean). The ending is a bit open. Everything resolves in the case however, Lockwood’s step toward growth, is that he is going to give up some of his secrets. And that leads to the next book. I can’t wait.
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