The Empty Grave, by Jonathan Stroud

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For the past five years, I have welcomed every fall with a new installment of Jonathan Stroud's Lockwood & Co. series. I don't know what cutesy name to give to the autumnal equivalent of a “beach read”, but that's totally what these books are—the perfect reading choice as the weather gets gloomier and we all start craving Halloween candy.

The Empty Grave opens with Lucy Carlyle and the rest of Lockwood & Co attempting to solve the mystery introduced at the end of the last book: is Marissa Fittes, the legendary ghost-hunting savior of England, really dead? Answering this question proves time-consuming and dangerous, and the young agents of Lockwood & Co. have plenty of additional worries. Setting aside the lingering aftereffects of Lucy and Lockwood's visit to the Other Side, and the ever-present threat of being shut down by the increasingly powerful Fittes Agency and its allies, there's plenty of ordinary ghost-hunting to be done, including defeating a spirit that seems to be driving the employees of a local circus to commit suicide.

Lockwood & Co has been one of my favorite series of the past decade. (We've complained about a few glitches, but they were truly minor.) Stroud's world is fascinating, the relationships between his characters are nuanced and believable, and his ghost stories are legitimately creepy. While I can't say that The Empty Grave ties everything up in a neat little bow, it actually comes closer to a purely happy ending than I thought it would, and I was left feeling totally satisfied. Really, the only cloud on my horizon is the thought of next year, which will be Lockwood-less. How am I supposed to get excited about next fall, huh? I don't even like pumpkin spice. Maybe Mr. Stroud will take pity on me, and release a The Ring of Solomon-style follow-up.

ANGRY FINAL NOTE: I am sure I am not the first person to complain about this, but I recently decided to look up the British covers for this series. As longtime readers of the site know, I am frequently envious of British cover art. In this case, however, Americans got a vastly better deal. For some asinine reason, the British editions have removed the actual protagonist and narrator of this series, Lucy, from their covers, and replaced her with the comparatively minor—but male!—character of Lockwood. (Lucy is featured on two of the five covers, once in shadow. The others feature Lockwood alone.) I know that publishers worry that boys are less likely to read a book with a girl on the cover, but this is bullshit. American publishers managed to solve this problem (their covers focus on haunted objects, rather than people) without being offensively sexist. Stroud's British publishers should be utterly ashamed of themselves.
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Posted by: Julianka

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