Rousing adventures for young tomb robbers and delvers into realms better left to the dead.

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THE WHISPERING SKULL

From the Lockwood & Co. series , Vol. 2

An occult portal and its spectral guardian nearly cut short the careers of three rising young ghost hunters in this madcap sequel to The Screaming Staircase (2013).

Continuing their predilection for falling into predicaments that require rapier work and fast exits, psychic detection agents Lockwood, George and Lucy are reluctantly hired by Scotland Yard to track down a mystical old “bone-glass” no sooner found in the arms of a moldering exhumed corpse than stolen. As everyone who has looked into this small but potent artifact seems to have either been driven insane or eaten by rats (or both), police and psychic black marketeers are equally eager to get their hands on it. In fine form, Stroud sends Lockwood & Co. on a trail that leads from an upper-crust social event to the mucky margins of the Thames and into dust-ups with thugs, rival agents and carloads of ectoplasmic horrors that can kill with just a touch. Lucy’s cautionary “If you’re easily icked-out, you might want to skip the rest of this paragraph…” goes for more than one grisly passage. For all their internecine squabbling, the three protagonists make a redoubtable team—and their supporting cast, led by the sneering titular skull in a jar, adds color and complications aplenty.

Rousing adventures for young tomb robbers and delvers into realms better left to the dead. (Ghost adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-6492-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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A patchy tale flickering repeatedly from light to dark and back.

TWAIN'S TREASURE

From the Phantom Files series

Alex’s ability to talk with ghosts puts him in famous company when he and his mom move to Hannibal, Missouri.

Alex, 13, is driven by bitter determination to keep his lifelong ability secret, since it’s already led to a diagnosis of schizophrenia that drove his parents apart and cost his mother a decent job, but it’s not easy. For one thing, his new friend, Bones, is a positively obsessed amateur ghost hunter, and for another, ghosts just won’t leave him alone no matter how rudely he treats them. Notable among the latter is Mark Twain himself, as acerbic and wily as he was in life, who is on the verge of involuntarily degenerating into a raging poltergeist unless Alex can find the unspecified, titular treasure. Alex’s search takes him through Clemens’ writings and tragic private life as well as many of the town’s related attractions on the way to a fiery climax in the public library. Meanwhile, Alex has an apotheosis of his own, deciding that lying to conceal his ability and his unhappy past isn’t worth the sacrifice of a valued friendship. Conveniently for the plot’s needs, Clemens and other ghosts can interact with the physical world at will. Wolfe parlays Alex’s ingrained inability to ignore ectoplasmic accosters into some amusing cross-conversations that help lighten his protagonist’s hard inner tests. The cast, living and otherwise, presents as white.

A patchy tale flickering repeatedly from light to dark and back. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: June 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-940924-29-8

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Dreaming Robot

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

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A killer thriller.

THREE HOURS IN PARIS

Black takes time out from chronicling the neighborhood-themed exploits of half-French detective Aimée Leduc to introduce a heroine as American as apple pie.

Kate Rees never expected to see Paris again, especially not under these circumstances. Born and bred in rural Oregon, she earned a scholarship to the Sorbonne, where she met Dafydd, a handsome Welshman who stole her heart. The start of World War II finds the couple stationed in the Orkney Islands, where Kate impresses Alfred Stepney of the War Department with the rifle skills she developed helping her dad and five brothers protect the family’s cattle. After unimaginable tragedy strikes, Stepney recruits Kate for a mission that will allow her to channel her newly ignited rage against the Germans who’ve just invaded France. She’s parachuted into the countryside, where her fluent French should help her blend in. Landing in a field, she hops a milk train to Paris, where she plans to shoot Adolf Hitler as he stands on the steps of Sacre-Coeur. Instead, she kills his admiral and has to flee through the streets of Paris, struggling to hook up with the rescuers who are supposed to extract her. Meanwhile, Gunter Hoffman, a career policeman in a wartime assignment with the Reichssicherheitsdienst security forces, is charged with finding the assassin who dared attempt to kill the Führer. It’s hard to see how it can end well for both the cop and the cowgirl. The heroine’s flight is too episodic to capitalize on Black’s skill at character development, but she’s great at raising readers’ blood pressure.

A killer thriller.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Soho Crime

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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The premise is better than the execution, but readers who aren’t bothered by arbitrary notions and unlikely situations will...

DUCK BOY

A teenager takes up alchemy where his suddenly vanished mom left off and falls afoul of police, vicious thugs and a digital intelligence determined to separate him into generic components.

Battling grief and a loser mentality (the latter reinforced by widespread derision after a quixotic attempt to save a duck frozen into a pond), Steve is electrified when his eccentric great-aunt Shannon transforms an ordinary “clock” into a “lock.” She informs him that he, too, can use words to work transformations—and perhaps discover what happened to his mother. Stronger on action than logic, the plot then proceeds to evolve into a wild tangle. On the one hand, Steve is pursued by police for a series of kidnappings and house trashings that are actually the work of rival alchemist John Dee and his murderous crew, and on the other, he travels back and forth between this plane and a “World of Pieces” where everything is made of numbers and a hypnotic voice urges him to dissolve into a protean liquid. Bunn works a predictable transformation on Steve, who rescues everybody, and caps his debut with a tidy, melodramatic, thoroughly contrived happy ending.

The premise is better than the execution, but readers who aren’t bothered by arbitrary notions and unlikely situations will enjoy the nonstop action. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-938463-60-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bitingduck Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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