I just finished rereading The Creeping Shadow, the fourth book in the Lockwood & Co. series, scarcely a week after finishing it for the first time. That is not something that I often do, and I think it speaks for the quality of the book that it was just as incredible the second time, even though I knew what was coming.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes this such a good book, and Lockwood and Co. such a good series, and raises it above other books of a similar genre. It’s a combination of many factors; likeable and believable characters, hilarious one-liners and expert evocation of the creepy atmosphere of a gothic horror. Lucy Carlyle is an excellent narrator, and her first person commentary on the various interlocking cases the team embark on and on her colleagues lends an instant ‘inside view’ on the characters in the novels; as she gets to know them and herself better, and grows and matures, so do we. I also appreciate the fact that the main character and narrator of this series is a girl, when so often the ‘everyman perspective’ in novels of this genre is male.
An excellent example of this maturation is Lucy’s changed attitude to Holly Munro in The Creeping Shadow, which I very much appreciated as their ‘rivalry’ in the previous book was one of my least favourite elements. Lucy finally recognises Holly as something other than a taunting image of perfection and grows to view her as an important colleague and friend, catalysed by the glorious moment close to the end when Lucy sees a very different side to her. I liked the moment when Lucy jumps to Holly’s defense at the end of the book, showing just how far her own attitude had changed.
Of course, Lucy is not the only character whose growth since the first book has been evident. In The Creeping Shadow, George’s reaction to Lucy’s dramatic decision to leave the company was handled very well and came across as totally in character. George is a character that very much says what he thinks, the polar opposite of Lockwood if you like, so the arguments between him and Lucy about her leaving and his acknowledgment of its effect on the rest of them were a lovely sign of their strong friendship, a far cry from their initial tension. There are little moments dotted throughout which show us just how far the characters have come since The Screaming Staircase, like Lucy reading George’s emotions through him rubbing his glasses, as easily as if he had shown them on his face, and the mentioning of previous and unseen cases and incidents in the lives of the characters which really help to flesh out their world- will we ever find out what happened in Mrs Barrett’s tomb?!
Lockwood’s reaction to Lucy leaving was also very much in character, in that he was characteristically closed off and enigmatic about it and only revealing his true feelings in the midst of a dangerous life-threatening crisis. Their conversation towards the end in which they ‘ironed everything out’ was very interesting, in that Lockwood didn’t even deny Lucy’s charges and they instead came to an agreement without actually solving the problem, in a development which speaks volumes about Lockwood’s character.
When it comes to character growth, in Lockwood’s case it’s not so much growth rather than stripping back the layers of mystery surrounding him with each successive book. When the series started, and in every subsequent book, we are reminded of the image he presents- the dashing yet enigmatic leader with a propensity to speak and act like a mid-century Victorian gentleman. In this book we see the cracks in this image as Lockwood grows ever more reckless and bold, and there is a sense of him barrelling inevitably towards some future catastrophe, a fact which he is well aware of. Lucy’s unspoken resolution to be by his side no matter what is dramatically proven by the events in this book, and the two are bound together anew by the end.
On the other characters- Kipps was a welcome addition to the team, almost completing the well-worn but always welcome ‘enemy to friend’ transition and providing an outside view of Lockwood’s recklessness that put it into stark light. The skull was as funny as ever, and was shown to be growing ever more possessive of Lucy, continuing an intriguing thread that started since it first spoke to her.
By the end of the book several mysteries have been solved and new ones raised, changing the world of the characters forever. The inevitable cliff-hanger is intriguing, and I definitely gasped out loud as the skull revealed a certain titbit of information. I can’t wait for the next book, as must all readers of this exceptional series.