I’m very excited about today’s offering – Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud… I was lucky enough to get my paws on an advance digital copy of the book via NetGalley thanks to Random House Australia and I am very glad I did…because it was an absolute little RIPPER, as we say around my neck of the woods!
I haven’t read a Stroud book since I encountered the first of the Bartimaeus trilogy, The Amulet of Samarkand, many years ago. Although I enjoyed it then, I didn’t feel the need to keep on with the series. I may have been mistaken in that decision, if the quality of Lockwood & Co is anything to go by.
The Screaming Staircase follows 15-year-old Lucy Carlyle as she arrives in London and attempts to find work with an appropriately outfitted Psychic Investigation Agency – essentially a group of kids with psychic skills, supervised by adults who have since lost their psychic skills, whose job it is to protect the general population from attacks by various types of wandering ghost. Instead, she lands a job with Lockwood & Co, a seat-of-your-pants, duct-tape and fishing line type organisation staffed by charismatic and devil-may-care Anthony Lockwood and surly and straight-down-the-line George Cubbins. Thus begins an eventful period in which the three are beset by a range of murderous spirits, engaged in an effort to stave off angry clients and bankruptcy, and occasionally find time to relax with tea and piles of doughnuts.
Read it if…..
* you are a fan of the young adult/paranormal/comedy/murder-mystery sub-genre
* you like to keep collections of weird and/or creepy things in jars around the house and spring them on unsuspecting guests for the express purpose of amusing your housemates (and yourself)
* you wholly support the idea that the dead should have the common decency to remain in an unanimated state until such time as the Powers-That-Control-The-Universe decree that they should be otherwise
* you agree that, should the need for fighting off wandering ghosts arise, the task should definitely be left to a bunch of small children…because adults have enough to bother about as it is
There’s a lot I could say about this book…and I will, in fact, because it’s worth raving about. But I will place these nuggets of information in handy, indented blocks for your perusing pleasure. You’re welcome.
One of the booksellers I came across had this book listed as recommended for ages 9-12. I think that’s both (a) a tad optimistic and (b) a tad limiting, in that, at nearly 400 pages and given the concepts and language involved, it would take an exceptional nine-year-old reader to manage this one on their own. As well, there is plenty here for older readers to enjoy, so I’d place it more at an 11+ sort of an age bracket.
The cover art, title and a lot of the early story had me initially assuming that this was a story set in, say, Victorian times, when rosy-cheeked orphans performed engaging dance routines while picking the pockets of the unsuspecting gentry. Then every so often there would be a reference to television or some other modern item. In fact, this story takes place in a CONTEMPORARY setting. For some reason, my brain could not wrap itself around this concept and the modern references jarred every single time. Consider yourself duly warned.
If you’re expecting grim, creepy and atmospheric, then you’ve come to the right book. If you’re expecting dry, witty dialogue, classic exchanges between the main characters, and a skull-in-a-jar that almost steals the show, you’ve also come to the right book. Stroud has blended the two seamlessly. Hurrah!
Honestly, I can’t speak highly enough of this book. While reading it, I was having the same moment of extended bliss that I had while reading Brandon Sanderson’s The Rithmatist – for the full story on that one, go here. I can definitely see this one falling into the “regular re-read” category and I’m almost certainly going to have to get myself a print copy so I can make it all soft and well-thumbed. Although anyone who feels the need to gift me with a print copy is more than welcome to do so.
If you’re not convinced that this is a great book, let the proof lie in this little piece of information: I, Bruce – of the major-hating-of-the-e-version-of-books and the much-preferedness-of-the-print-version-of-books – actually found myself returning to the computer screen in order to read more than my daily allocation of the e-galley…..
Until next time,