Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Lockwood and Co. The Whispering Skull

Lockwood and Co. The Whispering Skull

Jonathan Stroud
Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
Hyperion, 2014   ISBN: 978-0857532657

Fifty years ago, for some reason that no one understands, the ghosts of people who died violently in Britain began to leave their places of rest and ventured into the world of the living. Some of the ghosts, or Visitors as people call them, are benign creatures, but there are others that are vindictive and vengeful. They are out for blood and woe betide anyone who gets in their way. In response to this terrifying invasion, people in Britain have adapted. They don’t go out after dark and they protect their homes with ghost lights, iron and lavender, all of which repel ghosts. They also have set up a government agency called DEPRAC (Department of Psychical Research and Control) that deals with ghosts. In addition, numerous private ghost removal agencies have also been set up. The agents are children and teens, who have to go out into the darkness to rid the world of the ghosts. They alone can sense and see the ghosts well enough that they can be ready for an attack before it is too late.

   Lockwood and Co. is one of these ghost removal agencies. The agency wasn’t doing very well until seven months ago when it’s three agents were able to successfully get rid of some extremely dangerous ghosts that were in residence at Combe Cary Hall. Since then the agency has done well enough, and the agents have been kept busy.

   When they are hired to get rid of a Wraith on Wimbledon Common, the Lockwood and Co, agents think the job is going to be easy, but soon after they arrive they discover that there is more than one Visitor at the site. In fact they are many of them. George, the agency researcher, failed to find out that many hangings took place where the first Wraith was seen. George, Lockwood, and Lucy are running for their lives when agents from the Fittes Agency arrive on the scene and they are able, thanks to their superior numbers, to deal with the problem. Lockwood and his partners and the Fritte agents do not like each other at all. In fact, they are rivals and they decide that the next time they end up working on a case together, they will compete to see which team “wins the day.”

   Lockwood never imagines that his team and the Fittes agents will be working in tandem very soon, but this is exactly what happens. Lockwood, George and Lucy are hired to help secure a Visitor in a cemetery, and when they open the Visitor’s coffin they discover that what they are dealing with is a lot worse than anyone anticipated. In addition to a terrifying Visitor, there is a mirror in the coffin that is clearly bad news. Lockwood and his associates are able to secure the coffin, which is then taken to the nearby church to await removal by DEPRAC. Before DEPRAC’s people can remove the coffin, relic-men break into the church and steal the mirror.

    The Lockwood and Fittes agencies are hired by DEPRAC to find the mirror, which everyone is sure is an extremely dangerous object. It has to be found and destroyed as soon as possible. Lockwood, George and Lucy get on the trail of the two thieves. They find the body of one not far from the church, and it is clear that he made the mistake of looking at the mirror because he looks as if he was frightened to death. The second thief turns up at Lockwood’s home, where he soon expires due to the fact that someone has stabbed him.  

   The hunt for the mirror is made all the more sinister when a skull that George stole some time ago starts to talk to Lucy. It talked to her once before, but has been silent for months. Now it seems to be eager to talk to her, to give her clues about the mirror and its makers. The fact the Lucy is the only person in the agency who can hear it makes the situation even worse because Lucy has to deal with the skull’s cruel and manipulative ways on her own. The skull is a Source, a physical connection with a Visitor, but no one knows much about it. The fact that Visitors are not supposed to be able to talk at all makes this whole situation so much more frightening.

   Though Lockwood, Lucy and George cannot afford to trust what the skull tells Lucy, they also cannot afford to ignore the clues it gives them. It knows about the mirror and its history, and they need its help to find out who has taken the mirror and why.

   In this second Lockwood and Co. book, readers will find another story that is fascinating and sometimes terrifying. We learn a little more about Lockwood and the world that he and his associates live in. We also come to appreciate how little the agents, all of them, really understand about the Visitors. The fact that children are teens are fighting these entities without knowing much about them is more than a little unnerving.