Reviewed by K.M.Lockwood @lockwoodwriter
Paperback, 192 pages
Expected publication: October 4th 2012 by Hot Key Books
The Birth of a Ghost
In her last few moments of life, as the blood gushed from the knife wound in her neck, Emily Wilkins found her thoughts drifting to her mother’s death.
Summary from Waterstones
Sam Toop lives in a funeral parlour, blessed (or cursed) with an unusual gift. While his father buries the dead, Sam is haunted by their constant demands for attention. Trouble is afoot on the 'other side' - there is a horrible disease that is mysteriously imprisoning ghosts into empty houses in the world of the living. And Sam is caught in the middle - will he be able to bring himself to help? Blue Peter Award winner Gareth P. Jones has woven a darkly comic story, a wonderfully funny adventure that roams the grimy streets of Victorian London.
This book, aimed largely at the teenage reader, is an enjoyable blend of humorous, scary and sometimes very moving events in the life of Sam Toop. It is quite complex – there are alternating storylines, several plot strands and reversals, and the events of the prologue are not resolved till a good two-thirds of the way through.
One of its particular strengths is the portrayal of relatively minor characters. It is hard not to feel sympathy for most of the ghosts as they are quite distinct and
likeable. The funny side of the Ghost Bureau is handled well to lighten some really dark threats such as The Black Rot.
Although it deals with death and death, it is not gloomy, and yet there are some moments of real dignity and poignancy. There is also a delicately portrayed romance and a touch of sadness. A reader who engages with this book will get plenty of emotional ups and downs.
There is a good sense of a Victorian setting and a wide range of characters from Lady Aysgarth to Tanner, the cheeky Rogue poltergeist. My only small quibble is with one character who seems too good to be true – and stays that way. It’s not a major defect – and there is a great deal to enjoy.
Don’t read it if you are expecting a schlocky horror gore-fest (despite the beginning): do read it if you like a compassionate story with plenty of supernatural drama. One thing to point out – if you search the term ‘Constable & Toop’ you might find the spooky trailer by Gareth P. Jones – or a genuine undertakers!