If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ll know that I love creepy stories of all kinds. Ghosts, werewolves, zombies, vampires, and other creatures that live in the dark are often featured in the books I love. I’ve been reading many of the first titles from Hot Key Books (a brilliant new publisher based in the UK) and when I read about Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones I had to get my hands on it. A ghost story set in Victorian London, featuring a boy who could communicate with ghosts, sounded absolutely fantastic! Constable & Toop was even better than it sounded.
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?
Constable & Toop is a creepy, gruesome story, with plenty of mystery, and a good dose of wit and humour. Gareth can have you cringing one moment and laughing the next, which is why I liked the book so much. He has given us a glimpse inside the ghost world and it’s not what you would expect. It’s the ghost world and the witty banter between his characters that provide the comic relief of the story. There is also plenty of throat slitting and stabbing for those who like their ghost stories gruesome. The story is set in Victorian London and from the first page you are immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of the period.
There are several different threads of the story, following different characters, which Gareth weaves together perfectly. Gareth shows us the lives of the living and the dead, and the ‘Talkers’ allow them to communicate with each other. Characters whose lives seem quite separate from each other in the beginning become increasingly intertwined as the story progresses.
The thing I liked the most about Constable and Toop was the way that Gareth portrayed the ghost world. It’s very bureaucratic, with each ghost having a role, like Enforcer or Prowler, and there are lots of rules and regulations that ghosts must follow. If they don’t do as they are told they’re labelled Rogues and are hunted down. There is an incredible amount of paperwork that needs to be filled out to do anything, and you must have a license in order to be a Poltergeist. In order to go to the physical world and find out what your unfinished business is (so that you can step through the Unseen Door and cross over) you have to apply for a research license. Lapsewood is my favourite character because he’s a very likeable guy, who just wants to get away from all the paperwork and get some adventure out in the real world (while impressing the girl of his dreams). He has some of the best lines and has some incredibly strange conversations with his superiors, who can never seem to get his name right.
If you want a ghost story with a difference grab a copy of Constable and Toop by Gareth P. Jones. I would recommend it for fans of Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant series, Joseph Delaney’s Spook’s Apprentice series, or Barry Hutchison’s Invisible Fiends series.
5 out of 5 stars