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The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co) Hardcover – September 17, 2013
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From School Library Journal
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, ILα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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 his even though this is for a younger audience, his name carries weight with librarians, teachers, and parents. Grades 4-7. --Carolyn Phelan
Top customer reviews
The world of The Screaming Staircase is very much like our own, except that for the past fifty years, dangerous ghosts have been haunting the world at an alarmingly high rate, and only children have the psychic sensitivity needed to sense and combat them effectively. We follow Lucy Carlyle, a fourteen year old Agent from the country that moves to London and joins the small Lockwood & Co. company. After one of their ghost investigations goes horribly wrong, they are forced to take on one of the country’s most haunted homes.
I read this book by flashlight at night during a power outage, and although it was fun in a terrifying kind of way, I don’t recommend it. I wouldn’t call the genre horror exactly – it’s supposed to be middle-grade, and it mostly focuses on the adventure, but there are some nail-bitingly creepy parts that Stroud really brings to life. I thought Lucy was a great protagonist, she’s earnest and vulnerable, she doesn’t take any crap from anyone but she’s not showy about it, either. Lockwood seems to be cut from similar cloth as Nathaniel in the Bartimaeus series, he’s self-possessed and precocious and you forget that he’s young until he does something ridiculous that makes you realize how young he is. I wanted to know more about George, but he seemed to get the short end of the stick (primarily because Lucy and Lockwood thrive on action, and George is the researcher they often ignore.)
I wasn’t that excited by the plot itself. There wasn’t anything notably bad about it, but I just wasn’t drawn into it that much. I was willing to forgive that because it’s clearly setting up a larger world and mysteries to explore. Overall, I’m glad to report that instead of tarnishing my memories of Stroud’s previous works, reading The Screaming Staircase just made me want to reread them.
In a time when children are the only ones that can see and feel ghosts, and adults can't, come groups of ghost fighters in the heart of London and surrounding areas.
Lucy has just joined Lockwood and George. They form a small group fighting all kinds of ghosts: specters, screamers, and more. Lucy can hear and feel the ghosts, Lockwood can see them and George, well George is a slob but he does a lot of the background history of the ghosts they go after.
After burning down a house and putting their company in jeopardy, Lockwood takes on a case that could finish them for good. Lucy has taken something from the burned house and it may have something to do with the next case. Will Lockwood and Co. finish off the ghosts? Is there something lurking behind the object that someone wants and the ghost that inhabit it?
I started this book while working in a school library and was so caught up in the story, I got my own copy to finish. It kept me on my toes and I had to finish the story when I had time to read. Jonathan Stroud has written an exciting ghost hunting book. I can't wait to get to the next one.
YA literature always seems to "get things" much better than those dusty tomes for grown ups! The Ghost/spirit-monster genre is certainly no exception. You just can't beat The Last Apprentice (that's the Wardstone Chronicles for you Brits), especially if you like a stoic first-person narration, or the Monstrumologist series, although it is very, very dark. Now we have Stroud venturing into the spiritual realm again (as in the Bartimaeus series), only this time the human main character (a girl name Lucy Carlyle) is actually likable (remember, Bartimaeus, though very likable, is not human).
Stroud returns to London for his setting, but it is London of the near-future, not the past. The plot's major premise is that the world (England in particular) is experiencing what the populace calls the Problem: sinister ghosts, capable of killing and inflicting serious injury both physical and mental, have started appearing all over the place. The small-letter problem is that only children and teens can see and deal with these deadly apparitions. As the kids age, they start losing their gifts to see (before they manifest), hear, feel, etc. the ghosts (called Visitors). A lot of them then become supervisors for the kids who do the real work. The gifts these children have differ in form, strength, and usefulness.
Needless to say, getting rid of ghosts soon becomes a thriving industry. Agencies spring up all over the place, and, in time, of course, some garner better reputations and more clients than others. All agencies use adult supervisors to oversee the kids. It is isn't long before the government sticks its bureaucratic nose into things. Between the adult interference and government regulation, ghost-busting starts to lose its effectiveness.
Enter our hero, Anthony Lockweed, who leads the Lockwood & Co. psychic detection agency. He is himself a mid-teen; he hires only other kids and loathes the restrictions of having frightened adults along on a case. There is a fly in this ointment, however, as the agency has only three employees: Anthony, the afore-mentioned Lucy, and George, a gluttonous, but brilliant, thirteen-year-old. In addition, the agency is in serious financial peril and will soon have to shut down if its fortunes don't turn. The plot centers on the kids' effort to rescue the agency by solving a high-profile and extremely dangerous case while at the same time seeing to the needs of their other clients and cases.
The pace of the plot is not exactly blistering, but it is never tedious, either. You will move along quite well and smoothly. For me, the first-person narrative (by Lucy) is absolutely addictive. If you do the math from given clues, you can deduce that Lucy is around fifteen. She is spunky, decisive, a bit spontaneous (but NOT impulsive), and very adamantly independent. The narration is light and conversational and, although not as consistenly humorous as Bartimaeus, will at times have you laughing out loud. Stroud has nailed the voice of a mid-teen, feisty girl. Character development is superb, both of minor and major characters.
The second book in the series is now available. If you like Delaney, Yancey, Wrede, and others like them, you will love this book/series.