Who’re you gonna call?

Title: The Screaming Staircase cover

Author: Jonathan Stroud

Publisher & Release Date: Random House, September 17

The Hook: I thought Stroud’s Bartimaeus trilogy was wicked genius (bartimaeusbooks.com will give you an idea), and in this series he’s delving into ghosts, and the young people that fight them. The trailer is quite creepy.

The Lowdown (from the author’s website): 

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.

Overall Impressions:   An unexpected combination of murder mystery, ghost hunting action, and fantasy world-building kept me reading well beyond my self-imposed bedtime. The ghost hunting was believably hair-raising and the witty banter between characters was delightful.
Stroud has always impressed me with nuanced character-building, and Locke & Co. is no exception. The quirky, quasi-Sherlockian Lockwood and level-headed, determined Lucy make a balanced and amusing pair. Even George, the stodgy and slapstick sidekick, got enough narrative investment to round out his character into someone I was rooting for.
There’s considerable tension between the adults of this world and the ghost-hunting teenagers; Lucy and Lockwood’s brazen disregard for the caution and control of the adults can be both dangerous and satisfying. The rebelliousness will appeal to other teens, though this could also be recommended to the middle grades (assuming they like scary stories).

The Highs:
Lucy’s voice, and building her relationships with the enigmatic Anthony and fussy George. The wry humor throughout that Stroud is well known for. The well-plotted mystery of the dead socialite, which held some surprises until the very end. The deeply creepy feeling that permeates the entire book – these are some serious specters that will kill you in horrible ways. The little details of world building: the ghost lamps and the industries surrounding ghost hunting (like lavender fields and iron factories). The hints at future possibilities for Lockwood & Co.

Buzzkills:  None, apart from being genuinely creeped out.

The Source: NetGalley.com

Disclaimer: Neither chocolate or lavender boughs were provided by the publisher in exchange for this review.

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