The Shades of London series by Maureen Johnson has never shied away from the paranormal or surprises, so saying that “The Shadow Cabinet,” the third installment in the series and due out Feb. 10, rises to new levels in both those areas is saying a lot.
The series centers around 16-year-old Rory Deveaux, a Louisiana teenager attending school in London. She can see ghosts thanks to a near-death experience in the first book, "The Name of the Star," and discovers a paranormal police crew as she tries to solve mysteries related to her abilities.
“The Shadow Cabinet” finds Rory reeling from the events that brought “The Madness Underneath,” the second book in the series, to an end. Recovering from the attack a few weeks earlier, when she was stabbed by a ghost, she is dealing with a new power gained during the attack and searching for Stephen, her boss and crush in the paranormal police crew she assists.
All of this is further complicated by Jane, Rory’s therapist who has a past filled with murder and deceit and who can also see ghosts and wants to overcome death. Jane has kidnapped Rory's schoolmate Charlotte, and the search is on to recover Charlotte and put Jane and her accomplices behind bars before they complete their planned secret pagan rituals.
Rory is constantly telling stories from her odd upbringing in Louisiana, saying just what she thinks and doing whatever she wants. These characteristics are frustrating but work to endear Rory to readers and push the plot forward.
The side characters, both old and new, have their own quirks and depth, proving their necessity to the story and giving reason to root for their success or demise. The two new antagonists are so creepy and evil, they make the ghosts of the past installments seem like puppies.
“The Shadow Cabinet” includes many one-liners and witty conversations that make the characters seem real. They, along with historical references and spot-on descriptions of London streets and landmarks, help the paranormal plot and strange happenings become more believable.
With surprises around every turn, Johnson cruises through the story and leaves readers dangling at the last page in anticipation of the next installment.
“The Shadow Cabinet” has mild swearing, kissing scenes and violent depictions of death by poison, strangling and bludgeoning that, while detailed, are not gruesome. The novel also has many scenes of witchcraft and pagan rituals.
It's best to read the previous installments before jumping in with "The Shadow Cabinet."
Johnson's book tour, including a visit to Salt Lake City later this month, was canceled due to health reasons.