Book Review : The Screaming Staircase
Lockwood & Co. #1
By Jonathan Stroud
When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in . . .
For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.
Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest, most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.
Set in a city stalked by spectres, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humour and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again . . .
(Courtesy of goodreads.com)
Adult Point of View
Success! I want to read more of the Lockwood & Co mysteries and feel the chill of being ghost-locked. The Screaming Staircase is a good mystery, spine tingling thrill for middle graders. There are a few ghastly descriptions of the murdered victims and circumstances of other deaths. The description of the red room was truly awful. (I write this realizing that the red room description adds to the tone of the book and can’t be edited out. But, I did shudder in disgust.)
Stroud does a great job in writing; he tickled my funny bone with quirky details. When the kids from Lockwood & Co. work on solving a mystery they end up on Baker Street, the location of the research library in this alternative London. A sinister ghost plasm in a sealed jar is kept under a polkadot cloth. They bicker over who ate a doughnut, cookie or other treat instead of the danger they will certainly be facing. A table cloth serves as a notepad for pertinent messages as well as the mundane.
Lockwood – The teenager, proprietor and all around snarky fellow who runs Lockwood & Co, He seems reminiscent of a crowing Peter Pan, full of bluff and bluster. It seems like he will never grow up and loves a good adventure. If you know someone is trying to kill you and you proceed anyhow in their employ this is the guy for you!
Lucy – The cool headed one, well, sometimes. She gets fairly annoyed with George on a daily basis, but she has fair reasons to be annoyed and there are certain moments with Lockwood as well, such as when he nearly gets one killed. As the most complex character, to date, she is full of angst, self-doubt, insight and is the story teller.
George – Known for his lack of fashion, lack of coordination, and lack of social skills he is essential for his enthusiasm for research. He also is the main maker of tea and fetcher of doughnuts. He seems to be rather dour, though there are no reports of him being ghost-touched.
Here are a couple of quotes to demonstrate the descriptions which fairly tap dance on the tongue:
“The rule here is that each member of the agency only takes one cookie at a time in strict rotation. Keeps it fair, keeps it orderly. Nicking two in times of stress just isn’t done.” (p. 87)
“As we staggered out under our burden, like three trainee Sherpas back from Everest, he lowered the magazine and regarded us with callous amusement mixed with pity. He touched his forelock in a slightly ironic gesture.” (P. 251)
I recommend this book, and believe both boys and girls will enjoy it.
4 out of 5 stars
- the Mother
If you liked a mystery try Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett for a younger audience and Black Flowers, White Lies By Yvonne Ventresca for an older audience.
They were not my favorite mysteries, but some others for consideration would be When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead and I Am The Messenger By Markus Zusak. (Parents should definitely review Zusak’s book before giving it to their child.)