Chris Westwood, The Great and the Dangerous

Frances Lincoln, 2012, ISBN 978-1847802491

Ben Harvester is a teenager with a terrifying after-school job. He works for the Ministry of Pandemonium, and his task is to guide the souls of the newly dead to the after-life. Every day he and his friend Becky Sanborne receive orders about where to go and who to find. Sometimes the orders come before the person has died, leaving them with agonising moral dilemmas. Often souls are not ready to leave their earthly lives. Worse still, there is danger everywhere from the Ministry’s powerful enemies, the Lords of Sundown, who have different, far less benign plans for the souls, and for Ministry staff. They were responsible for Ben’s father’s death. Now they unleash a tornado that wrecks Becky’s house. Meanwhile, school life is becoming difficult. Their once supportive teacher repeatedly turns on them; the other students get increasingly hostile. Ben puts it all down to the malign influence of the new boy in the class, who he is sure is in league with the Lords of Sundown. Then there’s Ben’s mother’s new boyfriend, a charismatic charmer with enormous wealth whom Ben instantly distrusts. As tension mounts, Ben and Becky chase over London, desperate to save not only the souls, but also their own families and themselves.

This is a compelling urban fantasy. It is the sequel to Ministry of Pandemonium, but it works too as a stand alone title. It will be a big hit with lovers of contemporary gothic horror novels.