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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood and Co. #1)

Stroud, Jonathan. 2013. THE SCREAMING STAIRCASE. New York: Disney Hyperion.

This October I found myself reading the perfect book to get into the Halloween spirit.  The Screaming Staircase, the first in the Lockwood and Co. series, is a suspenseful adventure with likeable characters and an engaging plot.

For the past 50 years in England, there has been a Problem.  Ghosts, spirits, poltergeists, and the like come out nightly, and often cause damage and harm.  It turns out that young people are the only ones who can really see and hear these otherworldly Visitors, and those with the Talent for detecting ghosts can make a living for themselves getting rid of the unwanted visitors. Anthony Lockwood is the founder of such a business, his Lockwood and Co. Agency. The story is told from the point of view of his newest associate, Lucy Carlyle. Rounding out the trio is George Cubbins, a portly and unkempt boy who loves to research the backstories of the various ghosts the team investigates.

Lucy recounts growing up in a small village with her mother and sisters. After discovering she could hear ghosts and feel their emotions, her mother sent her to work for a local ghost agency.  A horrible accident happens on one of her jobs, and leaves her shaken.  So, she sets off for London by herself and the only ghost agency that will hire her is the struggling Lockwood and Co.

Anthony Lockwood is a mysterious but likeable character. We don't learn much about his past, only that his parents are both deceased. But he has a flair for the dramatic and often makes decisions and takes action without fully weighing his options. He is also self-confident to a fault.

The book opens with Lucy and Lockwood going to a new job - a house where a man fell down some stairs to his death. His fall was most likely caused by a ghost and his wife wants to get rid of it before returning to the house. Lucy and Lockwood discover that the problem is a ghost of a young woman who was murdered over 50 years ago. They discover her body and a gold locket she is still wearing. However, they forgot to bring along some of their key supplies for fending off ghosts, and Lucy and Lockwood escape an unfortunate house fire.

In the midst of trying to solve the 50 year old murder, as well as saving their agency from financial ruin, an eccentric businessman shows up and wants the trio to go to his house in the country to try to solve the mystery of the Screaming Staircase and the Red Room. The mansion is said to be haunted by multiple ghosts and several other ghost hunters didn't survive their night in the mansion...

I enjoyed this story.  It was creepy enough without being downright terrifying, it has great characters and it is very well written. Without being entirely obvious, Mr. Stroud subtly describes an alternate world and how our lives would be different if we had to deal with the ghost problem every night. I found that the first half of the book may have moved along slowly, but once I got to the last third, I couldn't put the book down.

The second installment in the Lockwood and Co. series, is The Whispering Skull, and we have both in our library to check out. I think you should.  The Screaming Staircase was also a Texas Lone Star Book for this year.

Happy Reading!
Mrs. Cox

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