The Ministry of Ghosts, by Alex Shearer

The titular ministry of The Ministry of Ghosts, by Alex Shearer (Sky Pony Press, May 2016;  2014 in the UK), is a dusty old backwater left behind by the forward march of government bureaucracy, and its four (and a cat) employees are utterly and completely failing in their mandate to produce tangible evidence that ghosts are real.  This failure has come to the attention of a government auditor who gives the ministry three months to produce a ghost, or it will be shut down for good.   In desperation, the four ministry workers break out of their hardened ruts of inactivity and hire two local children to be their ghost hunters...and the results are rather more dramatic than they could ever have hoped for!

I mysef liked it just fine, but I think that the person I would most enthusiastically press it on would be a college student who enjoyed MG fantasy a lot back in the day and who is in the middle of exam week and who wants something pleasingly diverting that, though it has interesting twists, is not terribly complicated with regard to fantasy world building and difficult names, and which, although good and interesting and amusing, isn't so rapid in its forward momentum that you have to stay up all night reading it (this is a Bad Thing during exam week!).  It also ends with a Heartwarming tie up of the story line, the sort of ending that is a Comfort in times of Stress.  I think it would be just about perfect for that reader.  It's also a very good one for a grown-up reader of mg fantasy to read in less than ideal circumstances (like in the dentist's office, or other places where you need a book that will hold your interest without making demands).

I am less certain that the target audience of 9-12 year old kids will persevere long enough to get to the actually ghostly adventures.  The development of the story is not typical of today's standard kids starring in fantasy adventure--the first large chunk is a poke at slacker government workers and the keen government inspectors hunting them down.   Generally in MG fantasy, the reader meets the kids in medias res, with the kids battling wolves or being prophesized about or eaten by trolls or all of the above at once, and then the author pulls back from the slavering jaws/bad rhymes and gives us backstory.  Here it is not until page 75 that the Girl Protagonist, Tuppence, appears, and the Boy Protagonist, Tim, arrives in the next chapter.  And although they do go ghost hunting together, it is the sort of ghost hunting where after one failure in a cemetery, the next two and half months pass in a page of nothing happening.

But it is interesting, in its small tasty details of place and character (both of kids and ministry empoyees) and the trail of clues leading to the ghostly extravaganza of the ending was lots of fun to follow!  I'm just not sure young readers will stick with it long enough to appreciate it.

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher


  1. Just read this amazing new YA fiction on Ganesha - Part 1 of the Temple Wars series - I think everyone should check it out! Temple Wars

  2. I will still look at this, as I've had students who were wild about Canned, which was not my favorite. This author wrote for British TV back in the 1980s, and I loved The Two of Us to a ridiculous extent.

  3. I will recommend this to my college-attending daughter who has a summer job at a government ministry! Sounds perfect for her!


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