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The Screaming Staircase

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud, Lockwood & Co #1

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...

The Screaming Staircase is one of the big children/ young adult story releases this year by Random House Kids.  Written by well-received children’s author Jonathan Stroud who is famous for his Bartimaeus series and other stand alone novels. I have read the Bartimaeus series and was quite impressed with the level of writing and the world that Jonathan Stroud imagined and of course the Djinn! From this I could make up that Jonathan Stroud know exactly how to write and what to write in a story and even more so to make it appeal even to the older readers among us. When I found out that he started a new series entitled Lockwood & Co. I was quite eager to see how this series would unfold. The Screaming Staircase is the first book in the series and kicks off it off just right.

From the first page Jonathan Stroud managed to pull me into the story. What I have come to learn of his writing is that it is readily approachable and easy to get into and will help a lot of younger readers to truly enjoy the pleasures of reading. What also makes this start of the book solid is directly the focus on the two main characters of the book, and showing just a bit of how eccentric they are. From the first sentence you are thrown in to the depths of the story and see how Lockwood and Lucy are dealing with the supernatural, a visitor. Now I have to say that I don’t often love characters, but both of them are just lovable. They are great characters to read about and they did remind me a bit of a different investigative duo, Sherlock and Watson. Lockwood is a 15- year old boy who leads the firm Lockwood & Co. which specializes in dealing with Visitors, which are ghosts, ghasts, specters and other supernatural threats that haunt the city of London. I was really impressed with how Jonathan Stroud wrote up Lockwood’s character, he is a bit of a self-confident and in some cases over confident young man, he likes to go his own way and readily jump into the fray and coming to understand that a better preparation might have been the better choice. However his eagerness into dealing with the Visitors really helps to pull the story further and yes, in some cases it turns out that Lockwood’s actions might have been to rash and he has to pay with the consequences, and if you than think that Lockwood will sit and mope, well your wrong he directly picks up his game and continues. In The Screaming Staircase there are a few moments with Lockwood’s character that I could term as learning moments.

The other main character in the book, Lucy Carlyle, offers an interesting point of view. She is just as old as Lockwood, but has a different edge in powers to lay contact with the Visitors, where as Lockwood has a strong Sight, Lucy has something known as Touch, when she touches an object she can connect and perceive something of the person from which the object was. The story of The Screaming Staircase is being told from Lucy perspectives, just like what you see when Watson narrates the story of Sherlock, now I really, really liked this part especially with how you were introduced to the oddities and reality of the book. Lucy claims that the last few missions haven’t been quite carried out well and you see this reflecting back in all that the duo does, it ways on their shoulders. By opting to tell the story through the eyes of Lucy the whole setting of the book and the reaction to several actions only resonate that much stronger. You also come to see Lucy’s character in much greater depth, Lockwood’s character is pretty much established from the get go, and is explained either by Lucy or you see several other characters telling about him, but Lucy’s character is constantly growing, she is talking to herself, second guessing herself and through all this and her encounters she is becoming much more confident and on one or a few occasions perhaps a bit too… needing intervention by Lockwood and his other helper George. But coming back to Lucy, what a great character! Her story telling made this story what it is, engaging, adventurous and a true pleasure to read.

Besides Lockwood and Lucy there is one other member of the team, who does, in the beginning of the story takes more of a position in the background. George. He is the helper of Lockwood and has a completely different personality that either Lockwood and Lucy, as they like to jump into the fray, George likes to carry out an extensive background check to get an edge on everything, just like Lucy I didn’t quite trust his characters motives in the beginning but later on you clearly see the importance of his character and he proves to be crucial to the story and his witty and smart remarks, besides those of Lockwood, help let the story come together even further. All three of the characters were really well fleshed out and will speak to a lot of youngsters, everyone will find something to like in one of them.

As for the story in itself, the book is divided into five different parts. Like I mentioned above,  you are thrown right into the fray as you see Lucy and Lockwood examining a case with a Visitor. But this goes horribly wrong for Lockwood & Co. But the introduction to the series, with this Visitor case did gave the right meaning of the whole story. You already glimpse the terminology of Visitors and how you can banish/capture such a creature, it was very cool to read about these, even more so because it’s not all just terms being thrown at you but also the explanations behind these terms and this made the story readily approachable. After this disastrous introduction, the story takes quite a shift into another direction, going back to the past and highlighting Lucy’s character and how she became what she is now. I might repeat myself again but I loved this part, it showed all that Lucy had gone through and that it wasn’t at all that easy. The last three parts of the book all directly play in to the first part of the story, neatly following up on the events, but it isn’t this straightforward. With Lockwood having to pay of his depth of 60.000 pounds proves to be a heavy burden, especially when you are loosing clients… however there is one person that comes to the rescue but are his motives really that pure….? Well that is for you to find out!

Next to the story itself, there is a lot of world building going on in The Screaming Staircase, Lockwood & Co. isn’t the only company hunting the Visitors and Jontahan Stroud talks more about other agencies and how they tackle problems as such, you even get to learn a few names. Also there is the part of Scotland Yard and the governmental institution that governs the Visitor hunting agencies. Adding these parts into the story created not only a well rounded story but also a lot of depth and quite the interesting one. Added to this is the part of how Visitor hunting is done, their weaknesses and other parts to look out for. Big plus.

The Screaming Staircase is a magnificent start to a new series. Jonathan Stroud shows just what he does best: Creating and interesting, engaging and truly adventurous. The characters are lively and each reader will be able to connect to one or more, they are fleshed out with vices and virtues that a lot of younger readers will be able to grasp and overall help make this story come to life. Next to this is the solid storyline and the interesting idea’s that you are introduced to. Hunting and banishing Visitors; which are ghosts and other supernatural phenomena. Jonathan Stroud has gotten me mighty curious to what else Lockwood & Co. will stumble upon on their next adventures! And if you are stilling looking for a Christmas present, get your kids this book!

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