Friday, September 19, 2014

The Whispering Skull Lockwood & Co Book 2 by Jonathan Stroud

The Whispering Skull
Lockwood & Co Book 2
by Jonathan Stroud 

Format: hardback
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (September 16, 2014)
Copyright: 2014
Pages: 448

Genre: middle grade fantasy-horror-mystery

Source: purchased  

Summary from the book cover:
In the six months since Anthony, Lucy, and George survived a night in the most haunted house in England, Lockwood & Co. hasn't made much progress. Quill Kipps and his team of Fittes agents keep swooping in on Lockwood's investigations, which is creating a bit of tension back home at Portland Row.

Things look up when a new client, Mr. Saunders, hires Lockwood & Co. to be present at the excavation of Edmund Bickerstaff, a Victorian doctor who, in Victorian times, reportedly tried to communicate with the dead. Saunders needs the coffin sealed with silver to prevent any supernatural trouble. All goes well-until George's curiosity attracts a horrible phantom. (There is a bit more, but I am going to cut this off here.)

I just finished reading this book today and it was a ton of fun. If you liked the last book, this one does not disappoint. I don't want to say too much because it would be too easy to slip into spoilers territory. Suffice it to say, there is a satisfying adventure that does pick up the threads left hanging from the last book, though with a larger time delay than I expected. I was also somewhat expecting the overall story arc of The Problem to play a larger role.

While the story was great fun, I still have the same reservations I had before about Lucy being the only female character that is good/normal and always taking umbrage at any other girl that appears. That is getting tiresome and it happens way too often in books. This whole there can be only one thing really needs to go the way of dinosaur. This spoils an otherwise fantastic adventure story.

The worldbuilding is also still rather odd - the combination of the old-fashion attitudes and gas-light with flip-flops and Coke is sometimes quite jarring. I am still having trouble picturing what the wider daylight world would look like.  And Tourists? How many tourists would there really be in a world were everyone pretty much goes into hiding at sundown. It sounds like travel would be really problematic. Also - how many generations of children have given up their childhood to be nightwatch and the like. I would think that would have a profound effect on society.  I can forgive some of this to the extent that the main characters are living a third-shift life, awake while the rest of the city sleeps - so I can understand some of the disconnect. But - I am hoping in the next book that we get more glimpses of the functioning of the wider world. Mostly this is quibbling though. The stories are delightfully atmospheric and satisfying as long as you don't start to think too terribly deeply about them.

To sum up - lots of fun.  If you liked the last book, you will almost certainly like this book too. Now I have the hard job of waiting for the next one. Once again the book ends like a shoe hitting the floor - this next shoe should be a doozy.

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