The Whispering Skull picks up the story about six months after Lockwood & Co. had their most successful case investigating the haunting's at Combe Carey Hall. The agency has made some notoriety, but compared to the other agencies in England, they are still one of the smallest. They don't even have uniforms. When a new commission lands Lockwood and rival Fittes' agency on the same job, the two decide to settle their differences over a wager. On the next joint case they receive, they will match wits and skills to solve the case, with the losing team admitting that the winning team is superior in the Times newspaper.
Lockwood & Co. is soon hired by Mr. Saunders to help with "eradicating some active remains.” Particularly that of a Doctor Edmund Bickerstaff, who reportedly died under horrible circumstances, eaten by rats to be exact. Mr. Saunders, indicates that Dr. Bickerstaff was rumored to have also been practicing witchcraft. Lockwood agrees to help seal Dr. Bickerstaff's coffin for transport to DEPRAC (Department of Psychical Research and Control) headquarters for disposal. Yet, things don't go off exactly as planned. While sealing the coffin, the trio come into contact with a Visitor and a mysterious glass mirror. After dispatching the Visitor, a break-in occurs at the chapel where the body of Dr. Bickerstaff was being held and the creepy mirror is stolen. Both Fittes' Agency and Lockwood end up commissioned by DEPRAC to solve the case.
The Whispering Skull has been sitting on my TBR pile since its release, so I knew that it was one of the first books I wanted to get to reading ASAP. Johnathan Stroud is my go to author when it comes to wanting to read something mysteriously creepy. Something filled with cemeteries, tombstones, and bloody bones and sinew. I just love his take on the British ghosthunter trio of Lockwood and Co. and the humor that he interjects into his stories. Much like the Bartimaeus character that I so enjoyed reading before, it was again ever present in The Whispering Skull. With lines like "Don't forget we're following a clue given to us by a malicious ghost-head in a jar. It's not reliable." What's not to love? Stroud's characters aren't perfect and have their own set of flaws, which makes them just that much more endearing to me. George being prone to experiments and a need to research something until the very end. Lockwood with his allusiveness and Lucy's mysterious connection to a ghost skull confined in a glass jar who spoke to her in the last book of "death coming." It's these flaws that land them into some interesting predicaments, leaving me knowing that I can expect a story filled with adventure, rapier battles against ghosts, flashlights and explosions. And that feeling of walking through a haunted house, with the anticipation that something is going to jump out at you any moment and despite knowing it you walk on through the dark anyway. Just loved it!