"If you buy the premise, you buy the bit." The premise here is that in recent years for some unknown reason Britain has been undergoing an epidemic of hauntings, and not only are ghosts much more common, but they are also much more lethal, able to kill with merely a touch. As it turns out, "only young people have the psychic abilities required to see--and eradicate--these supernatural foes", which sets up the argument for our three underage protagonists:
Our narrator Lucy Carlyle's special talent is Listening: the ability "to hear the voices of the dead, echoes of past events, and other unnatural sounds associated with hauntings."
Anthony Lockwood's special talent is Sight: the ability "to see apparitions and other ghostly phenomena."
George Cubbins' special talent (other than Being Annoying) is Touch: the ability "to detect psychic echoes from objects that have been closely associated with a death or haunting."
With members possessing all three of the main varieties of special Talents needed to detect ghosts, it is easy to understand why they might assume they can function independent of any adult supervision, but after the near debacles of this book, I'm not so sure. Let's just say that they better have learned something! They do make for a nicely mismatched trio, and it has been hilarious reading about them trying to function as a team.
The time period this story is set in is a bit unclear. It is after WWII, and even poor people have TV's, but I didn't notice a single cellphone, PDA, or computer, though photocopiers exist. Maybe this will be cleared up in future sequels like The Whispering Skull.
I've never read any of the Bartimaeus books, but perhaps I should.
Note: For once the included Glossary is excellent; so excellent that I'd recommend reading it first. It is that good, and I noted no spoilers.