How perfectly ghastly!

Constable and Toop by Gareth P. Jones

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Jones has written a creepy and lovely little book about ghosts. Ghosts who just happen to have a terribly bureaucratic approach to the afterlife in an oh-so-Victorian London and a dismaying problem – the Resident Ghosts are not staying in their appointed homes, and the Black Rot is becoming epidemic!

Opening with a perfectly horrid murder, the reader is soon introduced to put-upon Mr. Lapsewood, a ghostly functionary who becomes unwillingly enmeshed in these difficulties and Sam Toop, an undertaker’s son who is a Talker. That is, he can talk to ghosts. See them, too. Sam is becoming disillusioned by this ability since it seems as if the ghosts he helps are ungrateful, and worse, mean-spirited – no pun intended! – to their living relatives and friends.

Sam is soon recruited to Mr. Lapsewood’s cause through ghostly urchin Tanner, and separately both ghost and boy become determined to solve the mystery of the Black Rot and save the Residents of London. Another likable character is Clara, a smart girl who is horrified to realize that a very nasty man, Reverend Fallowfield is no trickster and that he is destroying the all-too-real ghosts, including the Resident of Clara’s own home, the spectral and snobbish Lady Aysgarth.

Clara becomes caught up in Sam’s efforts when he attempts to find out how a new ghost has become Resident in her home, and the three protagonists, Sam, Clara, and Lapsewood all join efforts to defeat Fallowfield and the spectral villains behind the Black Rot.

Middle grade readers should enjoy this ghoulish treat of a book. Its very Victorian prose cloaks the imaginative horrors in a film of humor and light historical detail, allowing enjoyment without nightmares.

And the best part? Apparently, Jones was visiting London and was inspired by an actual funeral home named Constable & Toop!

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