Lockwood & Co. The Screaming Staircase
By Jonathan Stroud
(Disney-Hyperion, Hardcover, 9781423164913, 400pp.)
Publication Date: September 17, 2013
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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A sinister Problem has occurred in London: all nature of ghosts, haunts, spirits, and specters are appearing throughout the city, and they aren't exactly friendly. Only young people have the psychic abilities required to see-and eradicate-these supernatural foes. Many different Psychic Detection Agencies have cropped up to handle the dangerous work, and they are in fierce competition for business.
In The Screaming Staircase, the plucky and talented Lucy Carlyle teams up with Anthony Lockwood, the charismatic leader of Lockwood & Co, a small agency that runs independent of any adult supervision. After an assignment leads to both a grisly discovery and a disastrous end, Lucy, Anthony, and their sarcastic colleague, George, are forced to take part in the perilous investigation of Combe Carey Hall, one of the most haunted houses in England. Will Lockwood & Co. survive the Hall's legendary Screaming Staircase and Red Room to see another day?
Readers who enjoyed the action, suspense, and humor in Jonathan Stroud's internationally best-selling Bartimaeus books will be delighted to find the same ingredients, combined with deliciously creepy scares, in his thrilling and chilling Lockwood & Co. series.
Jonathan Stroud (www.jonathanstroud.com) is the author of the New York Times best-selling Bartimaeus Trilogy, as well as Heroes of the Valley, The Leap, The Last Siege, and Buried Fire. He lives in England with his family.
In what has come to be called "the Problem," the British Isles have become plagued with ghostly Visitors in this highly entertaining first book in Stroud's Lockwood & Co. series. Since children and young teenagers are most able to sense the ghosts, psychically gifted youths are employed by agencies large and small, and use iron chains, magnesium flares, and salt bombs to contain and dispatch the Visitors. Narrator Lucy Carlyle has moved to London following a ghost-hunting mission gone very wrong, and her luck improves when she joins a small, independent outfit run by the dashing Anthony Lockwood and his studious and exasperating (to Lucy) partner, George Cubbins. Stroud (the Bartimaeus series) shows his customary flair for blending deadpan humor with thrilling action, and the fiery interplay among the three agents of Lockwood & Co. invigorates the story (along with no shortage of creepy moments). Stroud plays with ghost story conventions along the way, while laying intriguing groundwork that suggests that the Problem isn't the only problem these young agents will face in books tocome-the living can be dangerous, too. Ages 8 12.—PW
Three young ghost trappers take on deadly wraiths and solve an old murder case in the bargain to kick off Stroud's new post-Bartimaeus series. Narrator Lucy Carlyle hopes to put her unusual sensitivity to supernatural sounds to good use by joining the Lockwood & Co.-one of several firms that have risen to cope with the serious ghost Problem that has afflicted England in recent years. As its third member, she teams with glib, ambitious Anthony Lockwood and slovenly-but-capable scholar George Cubbins to entrap malign spirits for hire. The work is fraught with peril, not only because a ghost's merest touch is generally fatal, but also, as it turns out, as none of the three is particularly good at careful planning and preparation. All are, however, resourceful and quick on their feet, which stands them in good stead when they inadvertently set fire to a house while discovering a murder victim's desiccated corpse. It comes in handy again when they later rashly agree to clear Combe Carey Hall, renowned for centuries of sudden deaths and regarded as one of England's most haunted manors. Despite being well-stocked with scream-worthy ghastlies, this lively opener makes a light alternative for readers who find the likes of Joseph Delaney's Last Apprentice series too grim and creepy for comfort. A heartily satisfying string of entertaining near-catastrophes, replete with narrow squeaks and spectral howls. (Ghost adventure. 11-13)—Kirkus
Fifty years after the Problem began in London, it has slowly spread through the country. The public dreads Visitors, malevolent ghosts that can be directly sensed only by children. Young Lucy Carlyle joins Anthony Lockwood and George Cubbins to become Lockwood & Co., three kids using rapiers, iron chains, and magnesium fire to handle Visitors. After they bungle a job by inadvertently burning down a house, their company faces imminent ruin. Their last hope of saving it involves accepting a dicey assignment in one of England's most haunted houses. Despite the necessary time spent framing the series, Stroud ratchets up the tension considerably when the trio goes to work. Still, the most satisfying parts of the book concern the three intriguing main characters and the dynamics of their not-quite-comfortable relationship. Best known for the Bartimaeus books, beginning with The Amulet of Samarkand (2003), Stroud writes for a younger audience in book one of the Lockwood & Co. series and delivers some chilling scenes along the way. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY - Stroud made many fans with the Bartimaeus books, and even though this is for a younger audience, his name carries weight with librarians, teachers, and parents. - Carolyn Phelan—Booklist
In an alternative England plagued by hauntings, ghostbusting agencies are staffed mostly by Sensitive kids and teens, since only people under the age of eighteen have the psychic abilities to deal with the spirits properly. Young Lucy Carlyle is particularly gifted, though a recent mishap (accidentally burning a house down) while fighting a nasty shade alongside her pal/boss Lockwood might suggest otherwise. The incident brings their agency to the attention of a wealthy businessman who offers to pay for the damage to the house (and save Lockwood & Co. from financial ruin) if they spend the night investigating his recently acquired country home-which also happens to be one of the most haunted places in England. Stroud brings together the seemingly disparate plot points together with his usual combination of thrilling adventure and snarky humor. Fans of his Bartimaeus Trilogy will recognize Lockwood's assistant, George, as a kindred (albeit human) soul to that series' wise-cracking djinni, and indeed, all members of this spirit-smashing trio get in their fair share of zingers, providing a comedic balance to the many narrow escapes, false leads, and shape-shifting specters that otherwise occupy Lockwood & Co. The ghosts themselves are scary but not gory, and the descriptions are vivid without being intense, so that even readers who are traditionally scaredy-cats may very well find the horror here palatable. The world-building skips on the details a bit, but answers to the hows and whys of the spirit epidemic will likely appear in the future installment of this proposed series. KQG—BCCB
With a morbidly cheery tone and sure-footed establishment of characters and setting, Stroud (the Bartimaeus trilogy; Heroes of the Valley, rev. 1/09) kicks off a new series that is part procedural and part ghost story, with a healthy dash of caper thrown in for good measure. No one knows how the "Problem" began, but ghosts have become the world's worst pest infestation, causing rampant property damage and personal injury, even death. Protagonist Lucy's extreme psychic sensitivity (a talent found only in young people) is rivaled only by her dislike of obeying stupid orders, so she joins Lockwood & Co., a scrappy independent agency run by teenage operatives who scorn the usual requisite adult supervision. After a job goes awry, the agency is forced to take on a high-profile, high-paying haunting from a client who is, of course, not telling them everything. The setup is classic and is executed with panache. Lucy's wry, practical voice counterpoints the suspenseful supernatural goings-on as she, agency owner Anthony Lockwood, and dour associate George attempt to stiff-upper-lip their way through the ultimate haunted house. Tightly plotted and striking just the right balance between creepiness and hilarity, this rollicking series opener dashes to a fiery finish but leaves larger questions about the ghost Problem open for future exploration. CLAIRE E. GROSS—Horn Book
Gr 6-9 Lucy Carlyle relates the exploits of the teenage ghost-hunting agency, Lockwood & Co&. The world is still reeling from an infestation of malevolent, deadly ghosts that can only be detected by Talented youngsters with rare psychic sensitivities. Anthony Lockwood heads his three-person team, including Lucy and George Cubbins, in their efforts to defeat the evil spirits and remain solvent. A minor haunting that turns into a major problem leads Lockwood & Co. to a brooding mansion that has already claimed the lives of more experienced ghost hunters. Combe Carey Hall is "the most haunted private house in England an ugly oppressive mongrel of a building," and the trio quickly realizes that the dangers they face have human as well as supernatural sources. Authentically spooky events occur in an engagingly crafted, believable world, populated by distinct, colorful personalities. The genuinely likable members of Lockwood & Co. persevere through the evil machinations of the living and the dead and manage to come out with their skins, and their senses of humor, intact. This smart, fast-paced ghostly adventure promises future chills. Janice M. Del Negro, GSLIS Dominican University, River Forest, IL—SLJ