We start the new year with the first of a terrific new series – Lockwood & Co by Jonathan Stroud. This was the Great Middle Grade Reads group’s book of October, and I got it at the end of the month from the library, and couldn’t put it down! I’m looking forward to reading more of the series this year.
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 . . .
This starts with a Lovecraftian episode in the life of Lucy, a ghost hunter, and Lockwood, her boss, who’s forgotten a key piece of equipment. This presented us with a huge amount of information about the differences between this world and our own, all emerging from within a tale – attitudes of people to the supernatural and to those who seek to neutralise them, the setting of the books (contemporary London), the mechanisms at work – without ‘telling’ us at all. More light explanation followed, by backtracking over Lucy’s history and how she came to be interviewed for the job at Lockwood & Co. I felt this was a great approach to world-building.
The main event was served up next – a particularly challenging assignment, the payment for which would get them out of the hole Lockwood’s equipment malfunction had got them into. With Lucy narrating, it means that we get gaps where Lockwood appears to behaving oddly, so in terms of mystery we may or may not put it down to his quirkiness, or it may be a matter of the author withholding evidence. Because in many ways, this is a detective novel – the ghosts are generally the result of crimes having been committed, and we receive plenty of clues to help us solve the crimes ourselves. As a cosy mystery, it’s extremely well done. As a horror story, its pretty light, although excellent on the description. I don’t do horror, and I wouldn’t class it as such, despite the ghouls, ghosties and things that go bump in the night. I think the humanity of the protagonists and the ghosts themselves brings it back into the mystery or suspense setting. Certainly I haven’t lost any sleep after reading this book! Supernatural, yes. Paranormal, maybe. Dark, definitely, since everything happens at night. I particularly liked the sop to the residents of the ‘ghost lamp’ at night – a very local government solution! The detail in this writing is amazing without it ever slowing down the action.
I got this from my library because it was voted as the Great Middle Grade Reads book for October (for Halloween). I’m now hooked. The series is now at Book 4, and I’m just wondering whether the rest of the books live up to the first. You’ll find out here, no doubt!