Skip to main content

Constable & Toop

Review

Constable & Toop

In Gareth P. Jones’ reimagining of Victorian London, the boundary between the physical and spiritual realms is strictly enforced by the Ghost Bureau. Spirits caught between heaven and hellfire must follow certain protocol. Permits are obtained for hauntings and visitations, and Rogue ghosts are pursued as criminals. But the onset of a mysterious plague, the Black Rot, threatens to upset the balance between the living and the dead. Resident ghosts of haunted houses have gone missing, leaving the houses to decay. 

"CONSTABLE & TOOP delivers a new spin on the usual ghost story, just in time for Halloween."

Mr. Lapsewood, a timid official in the bureau’s Housing Department, takes a break from his familiar desk work to investigate the Black Rot. We also meet Sam Toop, the son of an undertaker, whose proximity to the dead marks him with supernatural abilities. Sam communicates with ghosts, helping with their unfinished business. The boy learns about the Black Rot through his powers as a Talker. It turns out that a fanatical exorcist is behind the disappearance of ghosts from haunted houses in London. Now unsuspecting spirits are imprisoned in houses to fill the vacancies.

CONSTABLE & TOOP is jam-packed with Dickensian touches: plot twists, coincidences and multiple storylines come together with surprising symmetry. It’s clear that the author has done his research. Jones conjures the atmosphere of Victorian London, with its thick smog, crowded pubs and sensationalist tales of murder and other crimes. The real terror in the novel is the work of violent criminals and corrupt policeman --- not ghosts.

For all its ghastliness and gore, this is a funny book. Jones describes the bureaucratic nonsense and red tape of the Ghost Bureau with sharp humor. The story is densely populated, much like 19th-century London. But readers won’t have any trouble keeping track of the characters, as Jones fits them with memorable catchphrases and over-the-top mannerisms. CONSTABLE & TOOP delivers a new spin on the usual ghost story, just in time for Halloween.

Reviewed by Emma Kantor on October 21, 2013

Constable & Toop
by Gareth P. Jones