Thursday, 25 September 2014

Happy Launch Day for "The Whispering Skull" - Lockwood and Co's latest case from Jonathan Stroud (Doubleday Children's Books)

The Whispering Skull

(Lockwood and Co 2)

Written by Jonathan Stroud

Published by Doubleday Children's Books

With my usual terrible timing, I bemoaned the fact that there were no really brilliant ghost stories for kids any more. I remember ghost anthologies and quite terrifying ghost collections like these when I was a wee whippersnapper...(I mean just LOOK at the cover of this typical example of awesome 70s spookiness!!)

"Ghosts, Spooks and Spectres" edited by Charles Molin

About a week after I'd typed up a huge rant about a lack of truly scary ghost stories for kids, "Lockwood and Co - The Screaming Staircase" dropped through my letterbox with a loud 'thunk' and from page 1 I was completely and utterly hooked. Here was a modern wordsmith carving out a ghostly alternative reality where ghosts roamed through the land, held back by agencies such as Lockwood's. Most importantly "The Screaming Staircase" was told from the perspective of Lucy, a girl with a heightened set of psychic powers who joins Lockwood and George to take on a truly complex and terrifying case.

By the end of the book (I won't spoil it too much, because I REALLY want you to read it) I was left breathless. Jonathan Stroud had written the sort of story I absolutely ate up as a kid, and still love as an adult, weaving a supernatural tale with tension, excitement and quite a few heart-in-mouth moments.

I couldn't wait for a sequel - and since it has arrived, I've gone through twice and am about to dive in for a third time (yes, it is THAT good). "The Whispering Skull" hails the return of Lockwood, George and Lucy - once again at odds with the flashy and thoroughly unpleasant Fittes Agency who seem to stick a size 10 boot in Lockwood's business at every turn. Despite Lockwood's optimism and verve, Lockwood and Co are once again in the doldrums after a short spell of riding on the successes of their last case.

It's going to take something truly spectacular to restore the company's fortunes, but with Fittes nipping at their heels, will they be able to put to rest the troublesome spirit of a Victorian doctor and rescue a powerful artifact before nefarious forces can bring that power to bear on London? Or will the Skull in the Glass Case (seen in Lockwood 1) have more than a coincidental impact on the agency's future?

Stroud's masterful method of injecting tension and excitement into every chapter, creating a ton of atmosphere and ghostliness, really puts him right at the top of the stack of modern writers able to carve out supernatural stories in a genre that really is making a huge comeback. His characters are brilliant (in fact I often find I love sketching Lockwood, George and Lucy just for fun purely because they are such an awesome team) and it's great to find a book series that truly puts me in mind of the fantastic fantasy and horror writers I loved when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s.

A vital addition to your collection if you love living on the spooky side of life.

"Lockwood and Co - The Whispering Skull" by Jonathan Stroud - Out Today from Doubleday Children's Books.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Doubleday Children's Books)