The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. #1)
by Jonathan Stroud
Goodreads: See here
Middle Grade Paranormal
Plot at a Glance:
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 . . .
Well that was fun and basically everything I hoped it would be!
Every once in awhile, in the midst of all my fantasy and YA reads I get a craving to read something just a little bit spooky. When I first came across some friends on my feed raving about this book, it immediately called to me. What’s spookier than ghosts? To me, not much!
I wasn’t sure when I could fit this into my reading schedule until Netgalley emailed me a widget for the first book, at which point I couldn’t pass it up.
There was a lot to love here. For starters, I love the whole alternate history idea: a world where ghosts have been proven to exist, and they’re actually incredibly dangerous to the living. A world where children’s latent psychic abilities turn them into weapons against the dead. At first glance there’s a lot to learn as Stroud has filled the book with terms unique to this world he’s created. Thankfully, there’s a glossary at the back of the book, so no one need get too lost while reading. There’s also a lot of backstory provided that help to establish the world and all these ghostly aspects of it for the reader.
The way these components of the story are introduced are a bit overwhelming, but I prefer the way this book avoids infodumping by just getting on with the story and hoping the reader catches on over time. It’s a bit like being thrown into the deep end but also being provided with swimming lessons along the way to ensure you don’t drown in the details.
Stroud manages to balance the spooky with the silly quite well here. The ghosts are definitely scary, but the dialogue and interactions between the living characters provide a necessary levity to the events, so children who read the book won’t be too scared out of their wits. Like a new age Beetlejuice, there’s a levity here that was unexpected but also quite welcome.
The three leads have such great chemistry together. I got an extreme Doctor Who vibe from Lockwood especially. As the leader of their little paranormal investigative outfit, and typically the most informed about the paranormal, Lockwood felt very Doctor-ish to me, and Lucy and George, his companions/assistants. Basically, I was imaging this the entire way through:
The characters provided the necessary dynamic for a lot of Lockwood’s revelations and intellect about their investigations to shine through. Now, I’m a big fan of all things Doctor Who, so finding such similarity in the way these characters are built was quite a pleasant surprise to me.
The only reason I’m detracting a star is because I thought the plotting could have been a bit tighter. The story is broken up into 5 parts, “The Ghost; Before; The Necklace; The Hall; And After,” a decision that thought felt a bit wonky. I spent nearly 50% of the book trying to figure out what the main plot of the book was actually going to be about. All of the events and the ghostly encounters are certainly a great deal of fun, but I think I would have enjoyed it a tiny bit more had there been a clearer plot arc to the story.
It might just be a case of the first book in a series needing to spend so much time establishing the world and aspects of it that the plot got a little sidelined. I’m hopeful that the next books in the series will have a clearer focus on direct plot movement now that the world has been properly introduced. Regardless, the events in this story are certainly entertaining and they fulfilled that need for a spooky read I was looking for, so I had a great time reading.
Looking forward to reading the next books soon!
🌟🌟🌟🌟= 4/5 stars
Thank you Netgalley and Disney-Hyperion for the opportunity to read and review this book!
What did you think of this book? Have you read any more of the series? What other spooky reads do you enjoy? Give me suggestions for October!