- Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones
Something is dreadfully wrong with the haunted houses of Victorian London, and ghostly Mr. Lapsewood is on the case. Reassigned from his comfortable if tedious desk job at the Ghost Bureau, Lapsewood finds himself roaming the streets in search of a missing ghost only to discover that houses all over the city have inexplicably lost their hauntings and fallen victim to the Black Rot. With the help of an [End Page 218] unexpected sidekick, young ghost Tanner, and his pack of spirit dogs, Lapsewood must unravel the mystery of the Black Rot before it starts to harm the living world. Meanwhile, fourteen-year-old Sam Toop, the undertaker’s son with a gift for talking to ghosts, has problems of his own to solve, including the sudden appearance of his murderous uncle Jack. When a favor for a recently deceased neighbor lands him in a church infected with Black Rot, Sam is drawn into Lapsewood’s quest, where he meets fifteen-year-old Clara Tiltman, an adventurous upper-class girl who may just hold the key to the mystery. With its Dickensian overtones and enormous cast of characters, this novel offers a pleasing mixture of quirky amusement and pulse-quickening scares. The central characters are all eminently likable in their way, and readers will root for them to come together to beat the various dastardly villains who contribute to the plague of Black Rot. Some villains are established at the beginning while others are revealed late in the story, giving readers insight into what’s going on and a few surprises as well. A handful of ghosts perish (again) in wrenching detail, but the novel as a whole is light on gore, making it the perfect choice for readers ready to graduate from Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book (BCCB 10/08), but not quite willing to take on genuine horror.