The Spook's Mistake by Joseph Delaney (The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 5)

10/10 As good as, if not better than the previous four books.

The Spook’s Mistake is the fifth book in The Wardstone Chronicles, a series of novels for young-adults written by Joseph Delaney.

As danger increases in the Country, Tom is sent north by his master to be trained by Bill Arkwright, another spook. Arkwright lives in a haunted mill on the edge if a treacherous marsh and his training methods are harsh. He has toughened up many previous apprentices though and now must do the same for Tom.

But when the Fiend sends his own daughter, a powerful water witch, to destroy Tom, Arkwright makes an error of judgement and Tom finds himself facing his enemies alone. The Spook and Alice hasten to his aid but will even their combined strength suffice in the face of such terrible dark power? And what is the Spook’s mistake, the consequences of which might give final victory to the dark?

As The Spook’s Mistake begins we find the County, indeed the country, ravaged by war, hunger and fear. Press-gangs roam the land looking for recruits and an over-protective Spook decides that Tom will be safer further north with the Spook’s old apprentice, the cantankerous Bill Arkwright. The Spook has been a tough master to Tom but Arkwright is an altogether different proposition; a hard, sometimes cruel man that the Spook hopes will teach Tom the necessary martial skills needed to face the Fiend and his minions. Arkwright’s home is a dilapidated, haunted water mill surrounded by a canal and marshes. There is a distinct watery feel to The Spook’s Mistake, and the early days of Tom’s training with Arkwright find him being taught to swim in rather an unorthodox way.

“Next, to my utter astonishment, he leaned forwards and pushed me hard in the chest. I overbalanced, fell back and hit the canal with a tremendous splash. The shock of the cold water made me gasp, but by then my head was already under the water and I began to choke as it surged up my nose and into my open mouth.”
The Spook’s Mistake: Chapter 7 – Frog-kicks

The battle between the Light and the Dark sees Tom pitted against the devil himself. The Spook describes what the Fiend will be doing now that he has been set free upon the County (The Spook’s Battle).

“He’ll be dividing families, turning husband against wife and son against father placing greed and treachery in human hearts; emptying churches of their congregations; making food rot in the granary and cattle waste away and die. He’ll swell the savagery of war into a blood-tide and make soldiers forget their humanity. In short, he’ll be increasing the burden of human misery and making love and friendship wither like crops struck by the blight.”
The Spook’s Mistake: Chapter 3 – A Late Reply

The Spook’s Mistake is once more set in the County, this time in the vicinity of Morecambe Bay and the southern Lake District. Coniston, Cartmel, Lancaster and the sands of the bay all feature, as does the Lancaster-Kendal canal. But, once again, things are changed to suit the demands of the narrative. The location of the watermill with its witch-infested marsh is fictional.

The Spook’s Mistake is as good as, if not better than the previous four books in the Wardstone Chronicles series. Those who may have been concerned that the quality of the series may begin to wane needn’t have feared as it continues to go from strength to strength.

Joseph Delaney lives in Lancashire and has three children and seven grand children. His home is in the middle of boggart territory and his village has a boggart called the Hall Knocker, which was laid to rest under the step of a house near the church.

Review by

1 positive reader review(s) for The Spook's Mistake

Our interview with Joseph Delaney

The Wardstone Chronicles began in 2004 with the publication of The Spook's Apprentice. In 2008 the fifth book in the series, The Spook's Mistake, was released to further complement a series that is without doubt the b [...]

Read interview


Joseph Delaney's The Wardstone Chronicles series

The Spook's Apprentice

The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 1

The Spook's Curse

The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 2

The Spook's Secret

The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 3

The Spook's Battle

The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 4

The Spook's Mistake

The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 5

The Spook's Tale

The Wardstone Chronicles

The Spook's Sacrifice

The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 6

The Spook's Stories: Witches

The Wardstone Chronicles

The Spook's Nightmare

The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 7

The Spook's Destiny

The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 8

I Am Grimalkin

The Wardstone Chronicles

The Spook's Blood

The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 10

Slither's Tale

The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 11

Spooks: Alice

The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 12

The Spook's Mistake reader reviews

from Botswana

Hi..:) I love horror and I think The Spook's Mistake is 1 of the best. When I read it I understood it so well that I felt I was in the story myself. I found Tom and Alice really cute. Hope you enjoy it the way I did.

from Aldershot

I love this book it is the best thing since sliced bread! One of the best books of the spooks. Must admit that they are better than Derik Landy's SKULLDUGGERY PLEASENT books.

8.5/10 from 3 reviews

Write a reader review

Your rating out of 10

Books you may also enjoy


Darren Shan

The Feathered Man

Jeremy de Quidt

The Story of Cirrus Flux

Matthew Skelton

The Golden Acorn

Catherine Cooper

Michael Belmont and the Tomb of Anubis

Ethan Russell Erway


Robert Westall


Ursula Le Guin

Following reviews


Joel Shepherd

The Riddler’s Gift

Greg Hamerton

The Lies of Locke Lamora

Scott Lynch


Douglas Jackson

Small-Minded Giants

Oisin McGann


James Barclay

Tales from the Ten-Tailed Cat

Marc Gascoigne and Christian Dunn

Legacy of the Eldric

David Burrows