The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. #1), by Jonathan Stroud
Publish Date: August 29, 2013
Published by: Corgi Childrens (first published by Doubleday Children’s Books, US editions by Disney-Hyperion)
Genre: MG Paranormal/Horror
My Rating: ★★★★★ (4.5 out of 5 stars)
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.
Oh this was such a thrilling story and I am so glad I picked it up. I didn’y even realize I was in the mood for a good ghost story until I really got into this one. Its got chills and haunts, mystery and intrigue, and a story that had me on the edge of my seat.
From the moment it started, I knew this story was what I needed right now. Stroud’s writing pulled me in with the Bartimaeus trilogy and this one was no different. The atmosphere kept me solidly in Britain, while the ghosts and apparitions had me sufficiently chilled. I thoroughly enjoyed the characters (especially Lockwood) and their dynamics with one another, and the storyline flowed so well it was hard to put down.
I was able to figure out one of the major clues in their investigation early on, and was therefore able to connect a lot of dots well before the mystery’s solution was revealed, plus the implications, so while it wasn’t all that unpredictable in that sense, it was still fun (and frustratingly slow) to see them all piece it together. I mean obviously it makes sense why they didn’t get the clue right away.
Meanwhile, though, the ghost investigations were extremely thrilling and had me fully invested in every one. I can’t even begin to describe how excited I was for their excursion to Combe Carey Hall when that was described – I couldn’t wait to be frightened. I haven’t seen a good scary movie in a long time and oh I love that hold-your-breath feeling you get watching others face down paranormal phenomena.
Also it had a major Rose Red vibe and I LOVED that miniseries so it was right up my alley.
Anyway, I think my chief complaint was that Lucy, as a character, was a little judgmental of others based on appearance. She didn’t like George at first because he was fat, and while his personality could be annoying at times, I was more than a little put off by that initial judgment being about his appearance rather than his character. Also, Stroud characterizing George as being gluttonous all the time was a little souring as well. But Lucy also didn’t like “pretty” girls, judging them to be “passive” and “getting by on their charms” and I was very disappointed in that. She is strong, has flaws, makes mistakes, is judgmental, is determined to see justice done and to finish the job, and is brave and loyal, so it is nice to see a character that isn’t completely perfect, even if she did rub me the wrong way with how she viewed others some times.
I would also like to know the repercussions of having a society where most of the agents who deal with ghosts and hauntings are children. Most of them don’t go to school and I am assuming become supervisors only because they have no other workplace skill as a result of lack of schooling. And then there is the question of how this affects them psychologically? I get that they are the only candidates for the job since adults have no sense for the unliving, but did no one care that they are sending kids to dangerous jobs at night where there is a high potential for death or injury? And with Talents that allow them to see awful things and sense strong emotions of varying sorts? Am I the only one concerned for these kids well-being?? There should be psychologists at every agency to help decompress post-haunting!
I know I know this is a middle grade series and shouldn’t be reading too much into it but I am because I am concerned and just want these kids to NOT be scarred into their adulthoods.
There are still a lot of questions I have, particularly like: why is the Problem only in Britain? Is it only in Britain? How come none of the other countries seem to care then? Why did it start nearly 50 years ago, and why is it supposedly getting worse? I have a strong feeling these questions will be answered in future books, or at least some of them. I hope.
Anyway, I still I really enjoyed reading this. It was truly haunting and had me on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading it, unable to put it down or stop thinking about it. Looking forward to starting the next one!