I’m a big fan of Will Mabbitt’s Mabel Jones series, funny, clever and frequently gruesome stories full of jokes and larger than life characters. His new series, Embassy of the Dead, is more serious but there’s still a good deal of gruesome humour (the MacGuffin is a box containing a dead man’s finger), and the best characters are the dead ones.
For Jake Jones the most pressing issues in his life are his parents’ separation, and the forthcoming school trip. All that changes however when he runs into – almost literally – the ghost of a long-dead undertaker called Stiffkey. In a case of mistaken identity, Stiffkey entrusts Jake with the care of a highly dangerous object which, should it fall into the wrong ghostly hands, will cause real and terrifying problems for the living. This is the beginning of an adventure which sees Jake careering across the countryside at the wheel of his father’s campervan (scenes any right-minded child will love) pursued by some very unpleasant spooks, while gathering around him a band of dead companions including a fox, and a hockey-stick-wielding, school girl poltergeist.
Mabbitt finds humour in both the worlds of the living and the dead, and envisages the latter as governed by a mix of council-office bureaucrats and high-level spies. It’s great fun, but the action occasionally and momentarily slows to give readers a glimpse into the pain of losing someone, and there’s a real poignancy in some of the scenes.
Generally readers though will enjoy this for the exciting, scary, fast-paced ghost story it is and will want to see out book two in the series which will see Jake and poltergeist Cora summoned to the Embassy of the Dead to undertake a special mission…