“Her mother coughed; a dry, throaty cough that sent a splatter of bloody phlegm into the palm of her hand, before she fell back and died, leaving Emily lone and orphaned.
At the time, Emily had childishly believed this final cough was her mother’s body ejecting all of its blood before dying.
She realised how very wrong she was as the red liquid now gushed from her own throat. The human body contained much more than a handful of dry blood. The murdering hands that were taking Emily’s life were covered in it.”
In the land of the dead, there’s something strange afoot. Ghosts are going missing from haunted houses. Lapsewood has been assigned the task of finding out how and why. When he enlists the help of young ghost Tanner, he uncovers more than he could have ever imagined. Meanwhile Sam Toop, an undertakers son who can speak and see the ghosts that roam the London street, can also see there’s something wrong. He is also asked to help stop The Black Rot from overtaking London, but can he do it whilst keeping himself, and others around him, safe.
I love a good ghost story and with Constable and Toop that is exactly what you get.
The story follows a few characters but most of them are very connected to the ghosts within it. The story is mainly about The Black Rot which is taking over the houses and other buildings that have lost their residents and is making them appear evil almost. its fascinating to learn about this theory of ghosts being connected to the buildings they died in and I loved that side of the story a lot, it was very well thought out. Then we have Clara, a girl who has grown up in a house which has its own ghost. Within the timeline of the story her ghost is lost and the house becomes a foreboding place to live. Finally Sam Toop, who can see and speak with the ghosts, has his own storyline connected to his family and its past. The three plot lines combine perfectly to create an amazingly development story which is interlinked in various ways. Ghosts are not the only theme in the book and it tells us a lot about the victorian times in ehich is was set and gives a brilliant crime subplot which was so much fun to follow, even if it was a bit gory!
There are a lot of characters, and some of them we only see for a short while. I will say that as a child my attention span was probably too short for this story and that may be its one downfall. Some characters we learn a lot about only for them to die or be taken into the void and not really be spoken about again. They all serve a purpose but they do drag the story out a bit more than I think a lot of children will appreciate unfortunately. I really enjoyed learning all about them though and think they did all add something to the story in their own way.
The writing is quite Victorian in its style, theres a lot of description and there’s a length to it that I cant really remember seeing in many middle grade books. I think it sets the scene perfectly though and theres definitely changes in it between all the characters, when the story is focussed on Jack, Sam’s Uncle, the language used seems to get darker and more seedy, and when it is focussed on Clara it is more inquisitive almost. I really enjoyed the change in mood when it came to all the deferent parts of the story.
There’s some scary bits and some gory bits in the book, there’s a lot of talk about death and dying and whilst its all handled really well, it might upset some younger readers. However, even with this in mind I really would recommend Constable & Toop to middle grade readers of a higher level.
Gareth P Jones’ song to accompany the book.
Constable & Toop was published in October by Hot Key Books. My copy was given to me as a Christmas Gift.
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