Monday 12 November 2012

Review: Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones

Sam Toop lives in a funeral parlour, blessed (or cursed) with an unusual gift. While his father buries the dead, Sam is haunted by their constant demands for attention. Trouble is afoot on the 'other side' - there is a horrible disease that is mysteriously imprisoning ghosts into empty houses in the world of the living. And Sam is caught in the middle - will he be able to bring himself to help?

One of my favourite horror films is Peter Jackson's The Frighteners. In my opinion, it has the perfect blend of horror and comedy, and it so deserves to be more widely acclaimed than it is. Released in 1996, and therefore some years before Jackson achieved god-like status with his The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it tells the story of Frank, a guy who develops psychic powers following a car accident. These psychic powers allow him to see and communicate with ghosts, and he uses this power to con people into thinking their houses are haunted, so that he can charge them for an exorcism. However, everything starts to go wrong when a Grim Reaper style ghost starts killing off the town's residents and it is down to Frank and his merry band of ghosts to save the day.

Why am I telling you this? Because Constable & Toop, the latest book from award winning writer Gareth P Jones, reminded me so much of that film, but in a Victorian setting. It is funny, scary, occasionally gruesome and has a great cast of characters, in both main and supporting roles. Oh yes, and it is beautifully written as well. I don't give starred reviews on this blog, but I gave this one five stars on Goodreads after I finished reading it.

The 'Frank' character is Constable & Toop is Sam Toop, a young boy who can see ghosts. And he sees a great deal of them - partly due to living and working in the funeral parlour where his father is a partner. Sometimes ghosts come looking for him, as they need closure in order to move on and he is a nice boy who will give up his time to help them. However, one fateful night his estranged uncle, a career criminal and murderer, comes crashing into his life. All of a sudden Sam finds his beliefs and his relationship with his father challenged, as dark secrets from the past gradually come to light.

In addition to Sam's story, there is also that of Lapsewood, a ghost who has for many years worked meekly as a ghostly civil servant. Finding himself suddenly transferred to another department and out of his comfort zone, Lapsewood stumbles across a dark and dangerous mystery - ghosts are going missing and houses that have previously been harmlesley haunted are becoming deadly for the ghostly entities that inhabit them. Lapsewood's and Sam's stories begin to intertwine and soon they find themselves racing to save both of their worlds, thwarted along the way by a pretty nasty piece of work in the form of an exorcist (and as villains go, this one is brilliant!).

Constable & Toop is brilliant from beginning to end, as Gareth P Jones skilfully weaves a fantastic and well plotted story of mystery, thrills and chills. Everything about the story is spot on - the characters, the descriptions of the Victorian setting and its inhabitants, the ghosts and their lives in their world, and the attention to detail. I would not be surprised if the author wins more awards with this book to add to those he has received for his previous works.

My thanks go to the lovely people at Hot Key Books for sending me a copy to review. This is a great book to give to horror loving kids as a stocking filler for Christmas - not too gory, not too scary, just the right amount of funny, and beautifully written.

Before you go please check out the following two videos. The first is Gareth singing his Constable & Toop song (I gather he writes a song to accompany each of his books and this one will totally get stuck in your head for weeks), and the second video is Gareth's fab trailer for the book.


  1. This is really high up on my wishlist and has been for a while but I hadnt seen the song or trailer before now, they are both awesome and that song really will stick in your head wont it. Thanks for your review, its cemented the fact that I need this book and I will be gettin ghold of it soon!!

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