Constable and Toop by Gareth P. Jones
Raven Review by Lauren
Source: library copy; all opinions are my own
Official Summary: Constable & Toop is a comic Victorian ghost story set in London
1884. Sam Toop is the son of a funeral director with the unfortunate
ability to see and hear ghosts. But London’s dead are the least of his
worries when murderous Uncle Jack comes to stay, seeking sanctuary from
the law. Trouble is afoot on the ‘other side’ too when a ghost clerk
called Lapsewood, working in the Bureau discovers that ghosts are
mysteriously going missing. His investigations soon reveal a terrible
disease known as the Black Rot, eating away at the haunted houses of
Review: Constable and Toop is a title that I came across one evening while working in the library. I read the back cover and immediately knew that I had to check it out. I’m definitely glad to have stumbled across Jones’ ghost story and I hope some of you will follow my lead and find a copy to check out!
The book takes place in London, 1884. The setting is done really well. I could easily imagine the streets and buildings as Sam Toop and the various ghosts traveled around the city. Everything came alive, like viewing a movie on the screen. While Sam Toop is one of the main characters, as his ability to see and speak to ghosts leads him into the mystery of the Black Rot, the book follows more than just this young boy.
All points of view are in third-person, but each chapter can change from Sam Toop working in his dad’s funeral home to Lapsewood, a ghost who has not yet crossed over and finds himself investigating London for a lost worker, to various ghosts that are met throughout the book. As a priest crosses London exorcising various ghosts, the buildings they occupied become fair game for what is known as the Black Rot, unless a new ghost wanders in. Then they are stuck. This happens to a worker and Lapsewood is sent to find her, using the help of a young Rogue ghost named Tanner. Rogue means they did not cross through the door after death but neither did they enter the ghostly workforce where everyone is kept in neat order. Instead, these ghosts roam the city streets, as free as they can be. Unfortunately, many of them get stuck in buildings and end up being horribly exorcised.
Once Lapsewood and Tanner learn more about the Black Rot, the story eventually reaches Sam, who has to decide to help or not. Throughout his life, Sam has tried to help as many ghosts as he could, but they are never thankful and sometimes they trick him into doing “bad” things. Sam is tired of it, just like he’s tired of his Uncle Jack hiding in their home, when he’s wanted for murder. But Jack has many secrets, and Sam ultimately becomes tangled up in more than one mystery.
The various point of views might sound daunting, but don’t worry. It’s mostly Sam and Lapeswood, and all the other narrations are easy to follow and important to the overall story. Constable and Toop is a unique ghost story that had me forming deep connections with the characters, even the ones we don’t know for very long. I highly recommend this one!