Lockwood & Co. #4. Author: Jonathan Stroud.
After leaving Lockwood & Co. at the end of The Hollow Boy, Lucy is a freelance operative, hiring herself out to agencies that value her ever-improving skills. One day she is pleasantly surprised by a visit from Lockwood, who tells her he needs a good Listener for a tough assignment. Penelope Fittes, the leader of the giant Fittes Agency wants them–and only them–to locate and remove the Source for the legendary Brixton Cannibal. They succeed in their very dangerous task, but tensions remain high between Lucy and the other agents. Even the skull in the jar talks to her like a jilted lover. What will it take to reunite the team? Black marketeers, an informant ghost, a Spirit Cape that transports the wearer, and mysteries involving Steve Rotwell and Penelope Fittes just may do the trick.
Hmm. Very similar to the previous books, which is partially bad, partially good. Cons: there’s not a lot of character development, and the fighting-ghosts action sequences really are repetitious when compared to the earlier books. Pros: in all fairness, the fighting-ghosts is every bit as shiver-inducing and exciting as it was before, so my grounds for complaining are purely standard-based, and the characters were already awesome so of course they still are. We hear a lot more from the skull this time, and that was fun. It took Lucy the entire book to get over her prejudice against Holly – seriously, girl, what the heck – but at least she finally did it! Finally! Also, since I would have groused from here to the Other Side and back again if Lucy got over it only after realizing that Holly and Lockwood are completely unromantic, it seems only fair to point out that did not happen.
I love the writing style. Not that it’s my usual favorite – which is a little flowery, a few metaphors, a lot pretty, as you know – but Stroud creates very human people and an utterly terrifying atmosphere with an expert hand. I mean, consider the opening passage:
“There were the sounds, too, centuries old; the ones I’d traced up the empty stairs and hallways of the house. The rustling linen, the crack of broken glass, the weeping of the dying woman: all were louder now. And there was the sudden intuition, felt deep in the pit of my gut, that something wicked had fixed its gaze on me.
Mind you, if none of that had worked, the shrill voice coming from my backpack might also have given me a clue. “Eek!” It cried. “Help! Ghost!” ”
I don’t think that’s even the best example of the style I’m trying to describe, but it came to hand easily. He switches back and forth between ominous descriptions and Lucy’s dry, down to earth humor in a way that defuses the potential for melodrama.
And behind the normal day-to-day ghost-fighting and spook-killing, there’s something pretty drastic going on. No spoilers, and what’s coming isn’t clear to me either, but there’s definitely something big ramping up for the final book; revelations about the Other Side and the nature of the Problem, hopefully.