Author: Gareth P Jones
Published: 4 October 2012
Other info: Gareth has also written The Thornthwaite Inheritance, The Dragon Detective Agency and also works as a TV producer.
Summary : 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?
Review: Sam Toop has grown up in a funeral parlour. And from that, he’s been able to talk to ghosts. He has rather nice conversations with them actually. Not so nice is when his uncle Jack pops in for a visit-a man who has murdered a policeman and is therefore on the run. So here Sam is, carrying messages for the dead. Here the afterlife office people are, trying to stop the houses of the town being infected with a disease that traps ghosts in it. And here’s another murderer stalking the streets.
From the launch list, this was one of the nine that I thought “I have got to read that.” Funeral parlours! Ghosts! Murder mystery! Spookiness! Fun times indeed.
What we weren’t told about (or at least, I never noticed) was the inclusion of an afterlife beaurau sorting things out in the form of Lapsewood, secretaries and so on. liscences to haunt, policing the haunting, crisises to sort out, hopefully in an ordered way. I love these things so points to Gareth!
Lots of things are introduced at the start. But it takes a fair bit of time for them to all come together, so for about half the novel I was wondering where it would all converge and everything would be relevant. But all these little plotlines that are separate are interesting in their own right, so I don’t really mind them.
Sam is nice, a younger protagonist than what I’m used to, but nice on his own. He changes a bit, becomes a bit more mature, and interesting. Lapsewood and Tanner are seen so often they may as well be billed as joint main characters as well as Sam. My favourite character is Clara, not just because she’s the most prominent female character in a mainly male-driven story, but because she’s inquisitive and the opposite of a good little Victorian girl..
There’s some fun touches with the afterlife with Gareth talking about Jane Austen and Charles Dickens writing more after their deaths. The Unseen Door and not passing on if you have unfinished business is something often seen, but the idea of the Black Rot keeping people ghosts are original. The ghost have attitude and are so cool. Oh, and dog ghosts. So cute!
The chapters are short, sweet and have nice little names that sum up what happens or who is introduced. The writing has is good, fully descriptive, with little quips such as “there’s no age limit on dying” that made me happy.
I love the scenes in which the ghosts appear, especially the ones where they talk to Sam and casually remark on their family’s ways of handling their affairs. Things like that always make me laugh, and Constable & Toop is no exception!
Overall: Strength 5 tea. Funny, cute and scary- a suitable intro to mild horror for younger readers, but a great read for horror lovers of all ages.
On a side note, at the moment, if you just type Constable and Toop into google, you actually come up with a real funeral director’s site.