BOOK REVIEW: The Screaming Staircase {Lockwood & Co., 1} by Jonathan Stroud

"When you go out hunting wicked spirits, it’s the simple things that matter most. The silvered point of your rapier flashing in the dark; the iron filings scattered on the floor; the sealed canisters of best Greek Fire, ready as a last resort… But tea bags, brown and fresh and plentiful, and made (for preference) by Pitkin Brothers of Bond Street, are perhaps the simplest and best of all."

Had it not been for Netflix I likely would not have ever learned of Jonathan Stroud's Lockwood & Co.. And while my attention span lacked the bandwidth to truly get into the show {I lasted 27 minutes}; it was enough to pique my interest into the book series that sparked the television series, which is how The Screaming Staircase {Lockwood & Co., 1} landed on my Kindle. While lengthy and oftentimes slower-paced than I anticipated, I would be lying if I said that I wasn't thoroughly engrossed in this tale - from the witty banter between quickly-adored characters to the eerie yet novel premise and gritty, noir-inspired feel of the setting. Will I be back for the sequel, The Whispering Skull {Lockwood & Co., 2}? Absolutely!

For 50 years Britain has been ruled by The Problem: a horrifying epidemic of ghosts and hauntings. Not what you were expecting, amiright? To combat The Problem, a series of Psychic Investigations Agencies have popped up around the country - all with the apparent capabilities of destroying the deadly apparitions. One of those agencies being Lockwood & Co. - a ramshackle organization run by a mere child out of Number 35, Portland Street. Though it seems bizarre to have the teenage, yet charistmatic Anthony Lockwood heading his own firm {small as it may be}, it is quite fitting considering that the only ones with the ability to exterminate said spirits are children and teenagers harboring the psychic ability to sense ghosts. Lockwood being one of those individuals; his deputy, George Cubbins, resident researcher and reader, being his second. But they need a third to round up their Scooby Gang. Enter Lucy Carlyle.

A talent well beyond her years with a poorly padded resume, Lucy Carlyle escapes to London following a tragic incident with her previous agency. Armed with dual Talents, the ability to both hear voices of the dead and experience memories of the deceased with the mere touch of an object belonging to them, Lucy feels that gaining employment will be a simple matter. Unfortunately, following rejections from all of the top, adult-run agencies, she winds up on the doorstep of her last hope: Lockwood & Co. Taken on immediately, Lucy moves into the 221B Baker Street-inspired office/living quarters, working and breakfasting alongside Lockwood and Cubbins day in and day out, while learning very little about Lockwood himself. Where are his parents? How did he come to own Number 35, Portland Street? Why does he never speak of his past? These are all questions Lucy longs to ask but is too polite to do so.

When the members of Lockwood & Co. are fingered as the irresponsible cause of a home burning down during an investigation in which they were ill-prepared for, the agency finds themselves in a bind. Summoned to pay an exorbitant amount of money which they simply don't have, the Lockwood & Co. trio is forced to take on the Combe Carey Hall investigation. Known for being one of England's most haunted houses, Combe Carey Hall is a job that has left members of more prestigious agencies dead - it is also Lockwood & Co.'s last chance at redemption, and so Lockwood, Cubbins, and Carlyle resolve to take on the so-called Red Room and Screaming Staircase. Whether they survive the experience, however, remains to be seen.

Ghost stories don't typically reel me in, but a good mystery is a simple way to my heart, so The Screaming Staircase quickly won me over with its Holmes-esque atmosphere kissed with paranormal charm. The true winner of this tale, however, are the characters. Believe me when I say that the Lockwood trio is Top Tier. We're talking mind-blowing chemistry, banter, and brilliance that is the true backbone of this story. Lockwood is captivating, what with his air of mystery, and level-headed calm; whereas Cubbins brings a laugh courtesy of his slobbish tendencies and peculiar quirks. Lucy is perhaps the most dry of the three, seeming more sensible, yet oftentimes ever so slightly boring. That said, she is a worthy compatriot to round out the trio and keep them more accountable for their curiosities.

Though I will admit that there were times that, at over 400 pages, this story did drag at different moments; as the first book in a series, this is most certainly not a dealbreaker, as it is setting the foundation for future books. For that reason, I have every intention of snagging book 2, The Whispering Skull, as I am eager to see what my favorite trio of paranormal detectives are up to - and perhaps delve deeper into Lockwood's private past.

Star Rating: ***1/2



ellie said...

Oh, so intriguing. Great to see your review!

Caitlin'nMegan said...

Good to know of it. I hadn't thought of finding this one.

Ivy's Closet said...

Great to see your review. I dunno..sounds like a lot to endure..maybe. But its good to see your review.

R's Rue said...

You have the best reviews.

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