Lynn: I’ve a weakness for Victorian ghost stories and the 2013 publishing year offered up some super ones. Constable & Toop (Abrams/Amulet 2013) joins my list of spooky favorites.
The ghosts of London’s haunted houses are mysteriously disappearing. Worse, once the ghosts disappear the “Black Rot,” a phantasmagorical wasting disease,” creeps in. Investigators, both human and ghostly, set out to figure out what is going on and stop the spread of the Rot. 13-year-old Sam Toop is a “Talker,” someone who can see and hear ghosts and he realizes that the living are in danger too. A spectral official, Mr. Lapsewood, from the Ghost Bureau notices too when he is sent to investigate the disappearance of a missing co-worker. The Bureau handles all things ghostly and in Mr. Lapsewood’s opinion is all that stands between “an orderly afterlife and utter chaos.” But chaos and paperwork seem to be winning! It is going to take the combined efforts of a motley mix of investigators, corporal and spirit, to solve the case.
Jones’ version of 1884 London is vividly drawn with a terrific blend of fact and fancy. I love his version of the ghostly world and the inept bureaucracy that regulates it made me laugh out loud with its sly digs at civil service organizations everywhere. The ghostly mystery is deliciously creepy and the cast of eccentric characters carries the story. The villains, both dead and alive, bring a shivery menace to the tale and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to find out what would happen. I can’t find anything that tells me whether this is the start of series but I really hope so!
I’m as fond of Author’s Notes as ghost stories and Gareth Jones’ Author Note is especially interesting. He writes about the source for the interesting title and some fascinating resources including his belief that long walks around London provided his best method of research.