Lockwood & Co. The Hollow Boy – review

lockwood 3I have spoken of my love for Lockwood & Co before. Let’s just now assume that I devour these books like Tunnocks teacakes, and that when I grow up I’d like to be able to write as well as Jonathan Stroud.

The Hollow Boy is the third in the series, and we pick up pretty much where we left off. Lockwood is still tall and brooding (though one of his secrets has been revealed, which Lucy finds very encouraging), Lucy is still impetuous and brilliant, and George still prefers biscuits and the library to anything involving real danger. Chelsea is in the grip of a Ghost Epidemic, and all the other agencies have been called in to help deal with it. Lockwood & Co has not – a really quite ridiculous snub, since they proved themselves more than capable in the last book, beating the Fittes agency to a ghostly victory. They try not to mind too much – after all, if everyone else is in Chelsea, that leaves the rest of London’s ghosts to deal with. They’re overworked and exhausted.

So the boys decide to bring in a secretary, to help deal with the administration (and the cleaning, to be honest). Holly is the result. Oh, how Lucy hates Holly – and thus, by default, so do I, being a staunch supporter of the main character. Holly bakes. Holly cleans. Holly is like Mary Poppins, not a hair out of place. (I’ll also just mention that Holly is black – which is relevant given the recent awareness of lack of black characters in chidren’s books, and given that all the other major players at Lockwood are white.)

The worst thing, of course, is that Lucy suspects that Anthony Lockwood likes Holly more than her. And that makes her even snippier towards Holly than she might otherwise be. (And, by default, me too, since I wish for nothing more than that Lucy and Lockwood should fall romantically into each other’s arms after some epic battle – which is precisely why Jonathan Stroud is much too clever to do something as easy as that.) Holly has more to her than meets the eye though – and as with all well-written fiction, the reader should beware of making assumptions based on other characters’ viewpoints.

In the meantime, Lucy has taken to carrying around the whispering skull in its jar, which now talks to her on a regular basis, being alternately insulting and helpful.

Gosh, these books are funny. They really are – I can’t possibly work out how it’s done, because basically they’re horror (and I don’t like horror) but they make me laugh out loud on a number of occasions. I’ve picked out two excerpts that made me chortle:

Lucy and the Skull have one of their nice chats...
Lucy and the Skull have one of their nice chats…
Description of Quill Kipps from the Fittes agency. I was on the bus when I read this bit and had to stifle the mirth
Description of Quill Kipps from the Fittes agency. I was on the bus when I read this bit and had to stifle the mirth

This is a really gripping story, as ever – and the ending is the sort of ending that must have been immensely satisfying to write because you KNOW your reader is going to go, ‘NOOOOO!!!’ and spend hours weeping into a tissue afterwards. Not that I did that. Obviously.

Lockwood & Co: The Hollow Boy is out now, published by Penguin Random House, and is totally brilliant. Apart from my ONE gripe. And it’s a gripe I had with Book 2 too. WHERE IS LUCY ON THE FRONT COVER? Come on, Random, sort it out. Lucy is the narrator, FFS. And she’s one of the best females in YA right now. By all means, put the brooding hero on the cover too, but you’re doing all the female ghost-hunting fans out there a MAJOR disservice by missing her off. NOT HAPPY.

Jonathan, on the other hand – you’re brilliant. More, please 🙂


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