Lockwood & Co #4: The Creeping Shadow…

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We Shelf-Dwellers love Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood & Co series.

We know it.

You know it.

Let’s just accept it as fact and move on.

If you haven’t had a crack at this series yet and you are a fan of paranormal, ghost hunting books, you are missing out.  Enough said.  We jumped at the chance to review book four in the series – The Creeping Shadow – when it was offered by the publisher via Netgalley (even though we haven’t got to book three yet), and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Lucy has left Lockwood & Co. A freelance operative, she is hiring herself out to other agencies – agencies that might value her ever-improving skills.

But now Lockwood needs her help.

Penelope Fittes, leader of the well-renowned Fittes Agency wants Lockwood & Co. – and only them – to locate and remove the ‘Source’ for the legendary Brixton Cannibal.

It’s a tough assignment. Made worse by the tensions between Lucy and the other agents – even the skull is treating her like a jilted lover!

What will it take to reunite the team? Black marketeers, an informant ghost, a Spirit Cape that transports the wearer, and mysteries involving their closest rivals may just do the trick.

But not all is at it seems. And it’s not long before a shocking revelation rocks Lockwood & Co. to its very core . . .

*There may be spoilers here from book two and beyond.  Read at your own risk*

I think this is the most intriguing book of the series so far (although, admittedly, I haven’t read the third book yet – The Hollow Boy), with Lucy’s relationship with Lockwood & Co being first and foremost in the mind of the reader the whole way through.  Having skipped straight to book four when opportunity arose meant that I haven’t been privy to the events of book three in which Lucy parts ways with Lockwood & Co and strikes out on her own as a freelance operative, ably aided by the skull in a jar.  Even though it’s obvious that book three dealt with some pretty major events, I didn’t feel particularly out of the loop here because essentially, all the reader needs to know is that (a) Lucy left Lockwood & Co and (b) the skull played a part in this leaving.

The early chapters of the book have a distinct air of melancholy about them as Lucy spends most of her time, when not freelancing for various sub-par agencies, alone in her bedsit with the skull, which, I’m sure we can all agree, is a bit depressing really.  It’s obvious that she misses the team, but feels that she must stay away for the greater good of everyone and Lockwood particularly.  Soon enough though, excitement kicks off as Lockwood invites Lucy back for a one-off job that quickly turns into a second job and so on.  The initial two ghost hunts (involving a historical witch and a seriously creepy cannibal serial killer) are particularly atmospheric and frightening.  The unexpected inclusion of Quill Kipps – ex-Fittes agency smug git and Lockwood & Co antagonist from way back – adds a new dimension to the tale as the team swells to five members, all of whom seem to have a bit of a beef (or at least a niggling irritation) with at least one of the other members.

There are some amazing reveals at the end of the story that I didn’t see coming and these will certainly be of great interest in the fifth (and final, apparently – booooo!) installment when it is released.  I won’t spoil any of the action for you, but the final hunt for the team involves a seriously haunted village that seems to be experiencing a sort of plague of ghosts, ever since a well-known research institute moved in down the road.  If you count the skull as the sixth member of the team – which Lucy obviously does – it is apparent that all six members will need every ounce of their wits about them for the next book, due to a “warning” (read: threat) from one of the top folks in the ghost hunting field, as well as a shocking tidbit of information that gets dropped just pages before the end.

The Creeping Shadow is simultaneously more of the same from the Lockwood & Co gang and the potential for fascinating new directions, so I am definitely looking forward to the final book in the series.  Now I just have to go back and read book three before number five is  released.

Until next time,

Bruce

For the Love of Books Giveaway Hop!

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Book love is in the air and so we’re happy to be participating in the For the Love of Books Giveaway Hop hosted by Val at StuckinBooks.  The hop runs from February 4th to 14th.

The theme of this hop is sharing books that we love so I’m offering one winner a copy of the first book in one of my favourite YA Paranormal series, Lockwood and Co by Jonathan Stroud.

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From Goodreads:

When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in . . .

For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.

Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest, most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.

Set in a city stalked by spectres, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humour and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again . . .

If you’ve already started the series, I’m happy to instead offer the winner their choice of any book from this series.  My giveaway is open internationally provided the Book Depository ships to your country for free.  Other Ts&Cs are in the Rafflecopter link.

To enter, just click on the Rafflecopter link below:

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now hop along and see what else you can win!  Click on the linky below to see the other participating blogs:

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Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

Good luck!

Until next time,

Bruce

Read-it-if-Review: Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase…

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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!

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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.

Reading Age:

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.

World-building:

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.

Tone:

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,

Bruce

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