How heavenly to have a new series written by Jonathan Stroud, he is one of my most favourite authors (The Amulet of Samarkand is one of only three books I have stayed up all night to finish). The Screaming Staircase is the first instalment in his ghoulish series Lockwood & Co.
In recent years, ghosts have become much much more prevalent, and much much more dangerous. People live in fear of being ghost-touched, stay away from the dark and must rely on agencies staffed by children. In the new topsy-turvy world adults are protected by children. Only they have the ability to see the spectres menacing ordinary folk in their homes. Anthony Lockwood is the confident and daring young proprietor of the famous ghost-hunting firm Lockwood & Co. Well, it might not be that famous, not yet, but it’s only a matter time. And the company might only consist of Lockwood and his friend George, but all that’s about to change.
Lucy Carlyle is in London looking for work after a traumatic night with a vengeful spirit in her hometown. She is a skilled Operative with a talent for hearing ghosts. Like Lockwood and George she is courageous and prepared to work hard; together the trio could be a formidable fighting force. An unfortunate incident whilst dealing with a ghost threatens to end their careers prematurely, but, as luck would have it, it leads them to a much bigger and potentially very lucrative case. Of course, the risks are proportionate to the rewards, but with some careful research and planning everything will be fine. Probably.
The story is compelling, with some sneaky twists and turns and some rather lively action. Lockwood, Lucy and George are all great characters. They bicker and disagree plenty, but when it counts they are there for each other. Lockwood is the dashing hero, George his more pedestrian side-kick, but as with all partnerships they complement each other. Without George’s talent for research and inexhaustible patience Lockwood would be lost. Lucy brings her affinity for understanding the spirits set loose upon the world, the strength of which even she doesn’t fully realise yet.
There are some scary moments, not least the Screaming Staircase itself, but there are also some lovely funny touches. Lockwood’s aptitude (or lack of) for imitating accents made me laugh, and I must admit that I found George’s ghost-jar experiments pretty amusing. Not that it’s very nice to torment a head in a jar like that, obviously. I also love the essential items in a ghost-hunter’s pack. Silver and iron, canisters of Greek Fire, without doubt, but never underestimate the power of tea!
The Screaming Staircase is a great story, and hints at a bigger mystery still. This is just the beginning for Lockwood & Co.
The Screaming Staircase is out now in hardback. My thanks to the publisher for sending me a proof copy of the book.