In this generously plotted, overstuffed ghost story set in Victorian London, “a phantasmagorical wasting disease” known as “Black Rot” is infesting haunted houses, and it’s up to a group of unlikely heroes to save the city.
Sam Toop, an undertaker’s son, is a Talker—he has the ability to communicate with ghosts. Lapsewood is a methodical and conscientious ghost civil servant sent to London to find out what happened to a missing co-worker. As their stories intertwine, they are joined by a large, Dickensian cast of heroes and rogues, both living and dead, each with his or her own agenda. Jones is interested in giving readers more than spooky thrills; his characters have moral heft and are concerned with issues such as culpability, whether people can be considered good if they have done bad things, and the importance of living life to its fullest. He does a good job of explaining the rules of his world and keeping its mythology consistent, and he leavens the material with plenty of humor. For example, he imagines a ghost world with a vast, onerous bureaucracy, a clever notion. The book is not for everyone; the overlong story drags in places, and it requires a level of patience and persistence that not all readers possess.
A complex, richly textured tale that will satisfy patient readers. (Fantasy. 10-14)