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Lockwood & Co., Book Four

The Creeping Shadow

by Jonathan Stroud

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Lockwood & Co, Book Four

The Creeping Shadow

by Jonathan Stroud

Reviewed September 22, 2016.
Disney/Hyperion, 2016. 445 pages.
Starred Review
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #2 Children's Fiction

I finished rereading Lockwood & Co. Book Three, The Hollow Boy a week before this one was scheduled to come out, so I waited for it anxiously. I had a copy preordered via Amazon, but I also put a library copy on hold just in case that would be faster. (The library was only a day behind Amazon, as it happened.)

First, I’ll say right up front that this is not the end of the series. This book, like the rest, ends with some new information that makes you anxious to read the next book. It’s not too annoying – you still have a complete story in these pages – but it does make you impatient for the next installment.

The good side of that is that there will be a next installment! This is a series I don’t want to end.

Yes, you should definitely read these books in order. There is a progression. But each book does feel complete with some adventures that tie together and culminate in a victory for our heroes. Though the new information at the end of each book always promises complications.

The basic scenario of all the books is alternate reality London, where for fifty years there has been a “Problem” with ghosts showing up and terrorizing the populace. Once people reach a certain age, they can’t see ghosts any more, so children in agencies fight the ghosts and find the Sources that keep them coming back to our world.

Most agencies have adult supervisors, but Lockwood & Co. is run by children themselves. (They don’t give Lockwood’s age directly, but I’m thinking he’s about fourteen.) They fight ghosts with weapons like silver-tipped rapiers, salt bombs, and iron chains. Agents are children with psychic talents to sense the ghosts – not everyone has them. And no one seems to be as gifted with Listening as our narrator Lucy Carlyle. She even has a skull in a jar that she talks with and keeps close.

At the start of this book, Lucy has been working on her own for a while as a consultant. She’s developed the Lucy Carlyle Formula for dealing with ghosts. “Use their name. Ask the question. Keep it simple.” She asks ghosts what they want. Sometimes they answer her. Though the way they answer is sometimes dangerous.

As the book opens, Lockwood comes back to her and asks for help on a case, the case of the Ealing Cannibal. The morning after that case, someone breaks into her apartment and steals the skull in the jar.

So this book develops differently than the previous volumes. There’s a lot of mortal danger from living people as well as from ghosts. Someone is keeping lots of powerful Sources from being destroyed. For what purpose? And can Lucy get the skull back?

Jonathan Stroud is definitely not lacking in imagination. There’s still lots of direct fighting ghosts – and he comes up with new twists such as a ghost who can only be seen in mirrors. But there is also a sense of bigger plots going on around our heroes – and a knowledge of danger because powerful people don’t want their plots discovered.

I don’t need to say more about the plot in this book. Read the books in order, and if you’ve read the first three books, I very much doubt you’ll want to stop. Yes, Book Four is just as good. Yes, it brings new twists into the story. Yes, it will be frustrating to wait for Book Five.

There is a progression in the series. We find out a little bit more about Lockwood’s background. (I love the use they find for something from his parents’ collection.) We find out a little bit more about the Problem. We find out a little bit more about the most powerful agencies in London. And along the way we get to enjoy Lockwood’s charisma, Lucy’s talent, George’s cleverness, and Holly’s efficiency. And the relationships between the four of them just get more complex. I can’t get enough of these books!