Read a full summary of The Hollow Boy, book #3 in Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood & Co. series, right here! This page is full of spoilers, so beware. If you are wondering what happened in The Hollow Boy, then you are in the right place!
Special thanks to Dawn Shipman, a new BSR contributor, who wrote this great recap! Visit her website to check out the books she’s written and to keep up with news about her new releases. See the end of the recap for links to her Goodreads, Instagram, and Facebook accounts as well as a link to the book she’s published.
***** Everything below is a SPOILER *****
What happened in The Hollow Boy?
Lucy, Lockwood, and George have been sent to Lavender Lodge by DEPRAC, the Department of Psychic Research and Control, to investigate the long-term absence of several people who were last seen at this boarding facility. The elderly business owners don’t want to allow them in the house, but Lockwood charms them into opening their doors.
When they go upstairs to examine the rooms where the missing men had stayed, the elderly couple slams the heavy iron door behind them, locking them in! They are immediately accosted by ghosts, and it isn’t hard to figure out these are what remains of the missing boarders of Lavender Lodge. But something else is there—something powerful—that is empowering these ghostly Visitors.
Lockwood & Co. continue climbing the stairs, fighting off the more minor ghosts, and arrive in the attic. This is where true evil awaits. It attacks—a great horrifying thing with tentacles, but the three teammates work together, each using their own particular skills, to defeat the Visitor (a Changer—a ghost that can take on any form) and escape. But just barely!
The old couple knew their home was haunted and had locked in the boarders at night, knowing the Changer would get them. They then buried the dead men under a garden shed and kept all their property. Thanks to Lockwood & Co., Scotland Yard arrested them, proving it’s not just ghosts that are terrible. Sometimes living beings are every bit as bad!
Lucy still talks to the ghostly skull in the jar. Sometimes, the Skull is almost nice. Other times, he’s just plain evil. He frequently begs her to release him, but she knows better. She is also getting very good at connecting with other Visitors, despite DEPRAC rules and Lockwood’s demands. It’s hard, though; she hears their voices and feels their pain.
A terrible outbreak of hauntings has taken over the Chelsea district of London. All the major psychic agencies are trying to put it down, even some that are not so major. Lockwood is furious his agency is not involved, but even if Inspector Barnes would invite them to help, they couldn’t do it.
They can hardly keep up with their current jobs. 35 Portland Row (Lockwood & Co.’s office and where all three live) is a mess! Laundry is everywhere, unwashed dishes are piling up, and important supplies are not being ordered. Lockwood has a solution: They should hire an assistant. Lucy disagrees. Sure, it might help, but she doesn’t want anyone intruding on her wonderful life as part of Lockwood & Co.
Lucy has long been curious about a room on the second floor whose door is never opened. At the end of the last book—The Whispering Skull—Lockwood finally relented and let her and George in. The room had belonged to Lockwood’s older sister, Jessica. She had been ghost-touched (killed) when she was fifteen years old. Lockwood tries to act like it no longer bothers him, but Lucy knows there’s more to the story. Still…it was a beginning. Lucy hopes this opens the door to a closer, more open relationship between her and Lockwood.
The Chelsea outbreak spreads farther and becomes very dangerous, but Lockwood’s agency is still not asked to help. Lucy’s talent for being able to communicate with ghosts almost gets her killed, but she also learns much from those she’s able to speak with, so she doesn’t feel as bad about this as she should. Meanwhile, things get more chaotic at 35 Portland Row.
After eighteen months working for Lockwood, Lucy takes a vacation and goes home to visit her mother and sisters in the north of England. It is not a good time, and she returns to London early…only to discover something even worse. Lockwood has hired a new assistant.
Holly Munro is beautiful, elegant, competent, and nice. Lucy hates her! The only one who agrees with Lucy’s opinion is the Skull. He loves making grotesque faces at Holly, but Holly is not aware it is a Type 3 ghost that Lucy communicates with.
A very important, wealthy client, Mrs. Wintergarden, wants Lockwood & Co. to deal with a haunting at her house. She isn’t very pleasant, but they take the case because at the last minute the client mentions one of the Night Watch child guards fell to his death from the top of her four-story staircase. Another child had been terrorized and lost her mind. Obviously, this is a dreadful and challenging haunting.
In doing his usual research, George discovered there had been a killing there decades earlier. The son of the wealthy owner at the time had gone crazy, stabbed a servant, and chased the injured boy up the stairs, from which he had fallen to his death. Now, every night at midnight, people who can see ghosts—in other words, Children—feel a terrible, frightening presence and see bloody footprints appearing on the stairs.
Lockwood, Lucy, and George experience that horror that night when they go to investigate. But they are not allowed to do anything yet. They are only observing, trying to figure out the best way to deal with these Visitors. Lockwood warns Lucy not to attempt any psychic connection. Lucy agrees—unwillingly. The Skull teases her about it.
It gets colder, and Lucy senses approaching evil. Their candles begin to twitch, and she’s aware of two ghostly figures racing up the steps. She steps outside, and her protective iron chain circle becomes “ghost-locked,” frozen in terror. She jumps back to safety only because the Skull teases her that Holly Munro would never do anything so stupid. The bloody footprints fade away after an hour. Despite everything, Lucy feels sympathy for the child who’d been killed all those years ago. Lockwood is furious with her. “We cannot have sympathy for any of them! They will kill us!”
Meanwhile, the Chelsea outbreak worsens. One of Quill Kipps’ team members is killed. George is convinced there’s a reason for all this new trouble. Something is stirring up all the ghosts, just like the Changer did at Lavender Lodge. Quill Kipps is distraught over losing his teammate and, in frustration over DEPRAC’s failed efforts to stop the outbreak, gives George important information to research.
George goes to the city archives to learn more about the bloody footprint case and has not returned when they must return to Mrs. Wintergarden’s house. Lockwood invites Holly to go along to help. Lucy is furious because she is jealous. Holly is everything (almost!) that Lucy wishes she was, but she can’t admit this to anyone, especially herself.
The same thing happens that night as did the night before. Lucy is convinced the dead child ghost is starving for a connection of some kind. Angry at Lockwood because of Holly, Lucy ignores his orders and rules for fighting Visitors.
The small ghost acts friendly, and Lucy lets it get way too close. It leaps at her, and she falls over the banister, holding on by one hand as the (now obviously evil ghost) comes for her. Lockwood jumps out to dispatch the ghost and crashes hard onto the landing afterward. Holly Munro grabs Lucy and holds on until George arrives. They pull her to safety.
Lockwood has a concussion, and Lucy knows it’s her fault. She feels terrible. Inspector Barnes comes to 35 Portland Row. Lockwood is still injured but comes downstairs to see what the inspector wants. Barnes asks them to join the others in fighting the Chelsea outbreak. “Mr. Lockwood,” he says. “This is like the end of the world!”
All of London is upset, and the large Fittes and Rotwell agencies decide to put on a festival to raise everyone’s spirits: “Take Back the Night!” There’s a parade, and Lockwood & Co, thanks to Mrs. Wintergarden’s recommendation, is invited to ride on the best float. Moments after the parade begins, the Fittes-Rotwell float is attacked by assailants. They are shooting guns of “ghost bombs.” When the bullets hit the float—ghosts appear and begin moving toward the people, but only agents can see this.
Chaos breaks out. Lockwood & Co. jump into action. Lockwood, Lucy, and George defend the adults, and Holly begins aiding the victims. Steve Rotwell kills one of the (human) attackers, while Lockwood stops another who was about to kill Penelope Fittes. That attacker runs away, with Lockwood and Lucy in hot pursuit. Sir Rupert Gale, a villainous “friend” of Penelope Fittes, whom Lucy and Lockwood had met in a previous book, joins in the chase, then attacks Lockwood when the assailant gets away. Lockwood strikes back, and things look bad. Then they are joined by a crowd of onlookers.
What is going on? Who set up such a terrible attack with so many people who could have been killed? No one knows. But Lockwood & Co. are praised for all they did, including saving Penelope Fittes’ life. Lucy is distraught, though. After all she’s done and how close she sometimes feels to Lockwood, it still seems Holly Munro is the shining star.
George, meanwhile, thinks he has solved the Chelsea outbreak mystery. But when they ask Inspector Barnes to listen to George’s theory, he refuses. Lockwood is enraged, then, of all things, Quill Kipps volunteers his team to help. With these extra people helping, maybe they can get to the bottom of the outbreak after all.
Aickmere’s Department Store takes up a whole city block on the edge of Chelsea. There have been no outrageous ghostly attacks there recently, but George’s research points directly at it. The store had been built upon the site of an ancient plague pit—where people who’d died hundreds of years earlier of bubonic plague had been buried. A bomb landed next to it during World War 2, killing dozens, and it was the site of a truly horrid medieval prison.
All of those deaths could explain the cluster of hauntings, but why has it only been bad recently? The Lockwood-Kipps team go into the closed shop to investigate, and Lucy and Holly are teamed up. This is a problem for so many reasons. There are many ghosts, and they are powerful, plus Lucy feels and hears a strange buzzing.
The Skull reminds her this sensation is exactly like the one she felt from that nasty Bone Glass/mirror earlier. (See Lockwood & Co., Book 2—The Whispering Skull.) The Bone Glass had been made from the bones of dead people so that people could see through it to “the other side,” into death itself. This thing Lucy feels now is just like that, only more powerful!
The ghosts become stronger as the teams investigate different floors of the store. Lucy and Holly’s nerves finally give way, and they break one of the most important of all psychic detection rules—Keep All Emotion Under Control. They become upset with each other and start quarreling—loudly! Visitors feed on such emotional upset, and this time is no exception.
How did The Hollow Boy end?
A poltergeist shows up, wreaking havoc everywhere. One of Kipps’ team members is injured and Lucy and Holly try to get him out and not be crushed by furniture being flung through the air by the poltergeist. After much destruction, they get the injured boy to safety, but the poltergeist has torn a huge hole in the store’s floor. Lockwood helps the others escape and is trying to save Lucy but is blown skyward by the raging poltergeist. Lucy falls into the deep, gaping pit that used to be the floor.
When she regains consciousness, she is alone in the dark. Gaining her strength, she begins investigating and finds piles and piles of human bones. The humming—like the Bone Glass from before—is overwhelming. She tries to escape, worried about what happened to Lockwood. Had he died trying to save her? Oh, please, no!
Then she sees him walking toward her. But what is this? There is a great, bloody hole in his chest. He is dead! But he speaks to her. He tells her it wasn’t her fault that he died and he’d come to say goodbye. Lucy is devastated. This can’t be. Then she realizes this isn’t the Lockwood she knows; it’s a hollow ghostly boy!
Suddenly a silvery blade slides through the heart of this thing that is not Lockwood. The Hollow Boy disappears, and there is the real Lockwood. “What were you saying to that ghost, Lucy?” he asks. But Lucy doesn’t tell him.
After looking at the huge ‘bone glass’ in this underground pit, they find their way out. The poltergeist is gone, everyone is safe, and George and Flo Bones go down to investigate the so-called giant bone glass. Soon the Rotwell agency arrives. They quickly collect all the bones and take them to the Fittes furnaces, the only place where such ghostly “sources” can be destroyed.
The Chelsea outbreak is solved and all is good, except Lucy cannot forget what the Hollow Boy that looked like Lockwood told her. Lockwood would die, if he had to, to save her. It is only a matter of time. Lucy knows it’s true. It’s exactly what A.J. Lockwood would do, and she cannot allow it. While everyone is celebrating their great victory, Lucy tells them what no one wants to hear: She is quitting; she’s leaving Lockwood & Co. She cannot stay any longer.
To find out what happens next, read Lockwood & Co. Book 4—The Creeping Shadow.
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