Book review: The Spook’s Bestiary by Joseph Delaney

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Selkies, kelpies, bugganes, boggarts, boogles and barghests...hands up if you know what they are!

John Gregory, the famous County Spook conjured up by retired Preston schoolteacher Joseph Delaney, is giving us all a lesson, and those who don’t pay attention could be in serious trouble.

Because the ‘denizens of the dark’ are coming to get you.

Delaney’s brilliant Spook adventure series for children, inspired by local ghost stories and legends, is a real ‘class’ act and one of Preston’s best and undoubtedly darkest exports.

For the uninitiated, the Spook is the star of the Wardstone Chronicles and his amazing new Bestiary is a record of the practical ways in which the master deals with the likes of grave-wreckers, hall-knockers and rippers.

Packed with fascinating allusions to Lancashire’s towns and countryside and lavishly illustrated with truly fantastic drawings by the very talented Julek Heller, this beautifully packaged book is an irresistible introduction to the wonders of witchfinding and another must for die-hard fans.

Gregory, the irascible Spook, lives in Chipenden, no more than a stone’s throw from the dreaded Samlesbury stone-chucker, the terrifying Cockerham Boggart and all kinds of other nasty creatures that go bump in the night.

As the seventh son of a seventh son, Gregory can see and talk to the dead but his most important task is to store his knowledge so that we can learn from the past.

That’s where the Bestiary comes in, it’s his personal and detailed account of his encounters with the enemy, the lessons he has learned and the mistakes he’s made.

So here’s your chance to get to grips with tales of boggarts who dig up corpses, cattle-rippers who drink the blood of animals and whistlers who howl down chimneys and drive their victims insane. Ugh!

Of course, there are ways of dealing with ‘the dark’ – eating County cheese to keep up your strength, slaying boggarts with a recipe of salt and iron and, if all else fails, a bit of straightforward flattery can work wonders.

Gregory’s notebook is peppered with famous boggart battles, the fates of his various apprentices, an inventory of his most notorious enemies and his devilish dealings with witches. There’s even space for a little schoolroom humour like the walk-on role for a ‘typical village teacher’ with bad dandruff and bottle-bottom glasses.

The Bestiary is a wonderful addition to the Spook collection as well as a superb stand-alone book for kids who just can’t get enough of all things gory and gruesome!

(Bodley Head, hardback, £9.99)

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