There are definitely two types of sequels – those that don’t capture the magic of the first book and those that build on that magic. The Whispering Skull, the sequel to The Screaming Staircase (2013), in the Lockwood & Co. middle grade fantasy series, is definitely in the second category. With the heavy lifting of world building and main character establishment already achieved, there is time and space for a more intricate plot and more nuanced character development.
Despite their previous success at the most haunted house in Britain, the smallest and coolest psychic detective agency in London is still struggling. When a case arises that involves an evilly powerful artifact, the three operatives – debonair and charismatic Lockwood, nerdy George and our narrator Lucy – use all their different Talents in a pitched competition against the slick operatives of the establishment Fittes agency. Meanwhile, Lucy is finding a connection with a rare Type Three Visitor – a skull in a jar that actually talks to her.
The satisfying plot includes some thoroughly creepy moments, while bubbling along with the snarky humor that Bartimaeus fans will recognize. Stroud goes deeper into the lore, introducing new characters and fresh elements to enrich it and with a surprise twist ending, there are clearly more adventures forthcoming for the mavericks of Lockwood & Co.