Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Lockwood & Co. Book Three The Hollow Boy

Lockwood & Co. Book Three The Hollow Boy

Jonathan Stroud
Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
Disney-Hyperion, 2015   ISBN: 978-1484709689

Fifty years ago Britain’s dead started coming back to the world of the living as ghosts of various kinds. This was the beginning of what people called the Problem, and the country has been struggling with it ever since. Agencies and a government department (DEPRAC) were formed to deal with the psychic events, and the agencies hired children and teenagers to serve as their agents because only young people can see, hear, and sense the ghosts. Only they can do the dangerous work of getting rid of the troublesome and sometimes deadly psychic phenomena.

Many of the agencies have been around for decades and are large organizations. Lockwood and Co. is not one of these businesses. There are only three operatives: Anthony Lockwood, Lucy Carlyle, and George Cubbins. Lockwood has a strong Talent for being able to see ghosts, and Lucy’s ever strengthening Talent allows them to hear them. George’s Talents are not strong, but he is a skilled researcher and often the information he has gathered about the location of a haunting is invaluable.

Not long ago no one knew about Lockwood and Co. but then the agency’s operatives managed to deal with a few very tricky ghostly problems and since then they have had a steady stream of jobs. Lately though that stream has turned into a flood. A few weeks ago Chelsea, a relatively quiet part of London, became the center of more hauntings than usual. In fact, there are so many ghosts about that the people at DEPRAC have hired many of the agencies to help them deal with the problem. Unfortunately, they are not making any headway and the situation is getting progressively worse. People living and working in Chelsea have been evacuated out of the area and they are not happy, and agents are being killed by the ghosts that are taking Chelsea over. As George says, the hauntings are “like an infection spreading.”

Because so many of the other agency agents are busy in Chelsea, Lockwood, George and Lucy are slammed with dealing with the regular haunting cases, and Lockwood eventually decides that they need an assistant, someone to help them stay organized and on top of things. Lucy does not like Holly, the person Lockwood hires, but she cannot deny that Holly makes their lives a lot easier. Holly does a great job, but Lucy feels that her presence has created an imbalance within the company

The tension within the agency is not helped by the fact that Lucy is trying to talk to some of the ghosts that she has been hired to get rid of. She begins to feel that sometimes the ghosts just need to be heard. They have a message that they want to convey and Lucy wants to be the one to help them. Why should she dispatch a ghost with salt, iron filings or her rapier if she can talk them into going away? Lockwood does not approve of this approach. Though he is not traditional in how he runs his business, Lockwood does adhere to the commonly accepted policy that agents should get rid of ghosts and not try to help them.

Then DEPRAC decides that they are desperate enough to want Lockwood and Co. to join the effort to stop the diabolical situation in Chelsea, and Lockwood is eager to join the fray. He never imagines that this case is going to bring about a change in his life, and in the lives of his friends, that will be irreversible.

This third Lockwood and Co. title takes us further into the inner lives of the main characters. We see how vulnerable Lucy is when the agency’s fortunes change for the better, and how much she needs the agency. We also recognize how dangerous the Problem is for the people affected by it and how unpredictable ghost wrangling is. Being an agent is not a job for the faint of heart.

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