Lockwood and Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

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Lockwood and Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

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Buy Lockwood and Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: London is full of ghosts, and only the young can sense them clearly. Lucy, Lockwood and George, the three members of a ramshackle psychic detection agency, find themselves up against vicious ghouls, spooky spectres, and some really nasty humans too.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 448 Date: August 2013
Publisher: Random House
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780857532015

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Sensing ghosts is a risky business, even if you're as talented as Lucy. And when one simple mistake leads to the death of several children, she sets off for a new start in London. Here there is an absolute epidemic of ectoplasm, icy air and bloodthirsty beings from beyond the grave. But ghost-hunting is big business down south, and the major firms won't hire an unknown. The only agency which will take Lucy is a down-at-heel place run, in the basement of their home, by two teenagers.

Still, a job is a job, and as board and lodging is thrown in, Lucy can't refuse. Besides, debonair, sword-wielding Anthony Lockwood may look as casual and carefree as any other young man about town, but his Sight is highly developed and his attitude to the cases they take on is always utterly professional. Just as well — one slight mistake could mean a swift and painful death. And although George is less gifted in the field than the other two, he's an utter genius at researching the kinds of ghosts they are likely to face each time. Iron chains and Greek fire can get you so far, but good solid preparation is what counts, in his opinion.

This book, the first in a new series, easily promises to be as well-known and popular as Jonathan Stroud's earlier series about the wisecracking djinni Bartimaeus. Stroud's trademark blend of humour, suspense and the supernatural makes for a gripping read, and it is no surprise that the story has already been optioned by Hollywood for a major live-action film. The extraordinary experiences of these three young people as they battle terrifying apparitions, and the images of a London riven by fear, are nicely balanced by the everyday details of their lives. Lunch will be served as soon as someone gets round to doing the washing up, and one of a psychic detective's best tools is the humble tea bag — a nice cuppa passes the time at night while you're waiting, plus it helps to protect you against the freezing miasma ghosts insist on spreading around wherever they go.

This is definitely a scary book, with lots of gory detail about dripping blood, unearthly screams and midnight apparitions, not to mention the very human reasons why these spirits ended up trapped between life and death in the first place. It is tempting therefore to recommend that only readers at the upper end of the confident readers range should tackle it. But young people often take great delight in scenes of grossness and over-the-top horror, and are less moved by them than their more delicate parents. Besides, the constant light humour (not to mention the fact that the book weighs in at nearly 450 pages) acts as an effective balance, and all bar the youngest and most nightmare-prone of children are sure to enjoy it. It's a series which will be the subject of avid discussion in the playground — and at the dinner table unless adults put a stop to it. Simply put, this is one of the best books to come out this year, and it deserves to be widely read.

That same blend of wisecracking fun, adventure and the supernatural can be found in the Bartimaeus stories, by the same author. Bookbag particularly enjoyed The Amulet of Samarkand and The Ring of Solomon. And older readers who are looking for more of a high-octane gore-fest will find it in CRYPT: The Gallows Curse and CRYPT: Traitor's Revenge. And those last two are definitely not for reading at the table!

Buy Lockwood and Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Lockwood and Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Lockwood and Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Lockwood and Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud at Amazon.com.

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