Two London teens train to escort souls into the afterlife in this thoroughly muddled fantasy.
They have been recruited by Mr. October, a master of disguise given to both cryptic hints and long-winded background explanations. Ben goes out each night either to an office to type the names of the dead onto file cards in the magically disguised “Ministry of Pandemonium” or into the streets with psychic classmate Becky to escort the city’s newly minted ghosts through a shining doorway. This latter task is complicated by the menacing Lords of Sundown—a diverse group of baddies with the vague agenda of bringing “disorder and chaos to the world.” They achieve this by both kidnapping confused spirits and sucking out the souls of the living like (as Mr. October puts it) “industrial-strength vacuum cleaners of doom.” When Ben pockets a card with his own mother’s name on it, Mr. October saves his job with a transparent switcheroo, but the lad’s failure to follow proper procedure somehow lets the Lords of Sundown into the Ministry for a climactic battle. Ben's filing expertise is key to overcoming them.
A jumble of contrived events and nonsensical details, this book is neither suspenseful enough to work as drama nor funny enough to be a sendup. (Fantasy. 11-13)