Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Lockwood and Co. The Screaming Staircase

Lockwood and Co. The Screaming Staircase

Jonathan Stroud
Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
Disney-Hyperion, 2013   ISBN: 978-1423164913

Fifty or so years ago something very strange began to happen in England. Ghosts and other deathly apparitions began to attack living humans, often killing them. Since this “Problem” began people have been trying to come up with ways to fend off the dangerous ghosts. There is a curfew that begins when the sun sets and people use iron, salt, and lavender to keep ghosts out of their homes. Though ghosts can be kept at bay by these methods, sometimes it is desirable to get rid of ghosts that are haunting a particular place.

   Adults are unable to see or hear the dead, but children have natural psychic abilities to see, hear, and sense ghosts, and therefore they alone are in a position to fight them, and fight them they do. As employees of Psychic Detection Agencies, they go out to do battle with the dead, often getting injured or even killed by their dangerous foes.

   When she was still very young it was clear to Lucy Carlyle’s mother that Lucy was particularly sensitive to the “Visitors.” Not surprisingly, when she was eight, Lucy got a job with her local ghost eradication organization, but when a ghost cleanup in a mill went horribly wrong, Lucy decided to go to London where she hoped she could find employment with one of the agencies.

   This is how she ends up employed as an agent with the Lockwood and Co. agency. The agency is very small (there are three employees) and there is no adult supervisor. Instead, the three agents, Lucy, George, and Lockwood, are independent and able to make their own decisions.

   Though this independence sounds splendid in theory, it ends up getting the young agents in trouble. They are hired to rid a house of a very nasty type two ghost and end up burning down the house that is being haunted. Not surprisingly, the Lockwood and Co. agents are blamed for the fire and they are told that they have to make restitution, to the tune of sixty-five thousand pounds, to the owners of the house.

   Desperate to save their business, the young people take on a job that no one in their right mind would touch. They agree to spend the night in Combe Carey Hall, one of the most haunted houses in England. Countless people have died in the house, and the last group of agents who spent the night there perished.

   In this first Lockwood and Co. title Jonathan Stroud takes his readers on an extraordinary journey that will leave them tingling, breathless, and eager for more. He takes us to an alternate Victorian England where spooks have the abilities to affect the lives of the living. One never quite knows what is going to happen next, which is part of the attraction in this splendid title.

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