A damn good book! The cover says, ‘Stroud is a genius!’, I say, ‘Oh yeah! He is indeed! Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase– a book that made Jonathan Stroud one of my favourite authors of all times. Try as I might, I couldn’t detect a single flaw in The Screaming Staircase. A thoroughly enjoyable read that made me rush to read the sequels.
Title: Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Publisher: Corgi Childrens
Publishing Date: August 29th, 2013
Genres: Horror, Young Adult, Fantasy
Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase is the first book of the Lockwood & Co. series. The setting of the story is novel and highly intriguing. In this book, Stroud introduces readers to an alternate England, which is populated not just by living beings, but also, by ghosts. Not to worry though! The ghosts (Shades, Phantasms, Cold Maidens, Spectres, etc etc) don’t manifest during daytime. The ghosts and their powers can manifest only after dark. And when the ghosts do walk the streets, lurk around the corners, drift through the trees, and stare out of haunted houses, England doesn’t cower in fear; Why? Because safeguarding the lives of the citizens, while, putting their own lives at stake are brave agents from ghost hunting agencies- several of them, but, none better than the smallest agency in London- Lockwood & Co.
While reading The Screaming Staircase, you will step into England where ‘The Problem’- the name given to the problem of an increased ghost population- has been going on for close to fifty years. No one knows how it had started or what had caused ‘The Problem’. Over the decades, ‘The Problem’ had increased causing anxious denizens to devise various ways and methods to counteract it, along with, the formation of ghost hunting agencies to ward off the ghosts. In half a century, cultivation of lavender, along with, production of iron and silver have fiercely increased in England. Bunches of lavender are hung in porches and storefronts, doors, windows & even floorings are laced with iron, curfew starts at twilight causing adults to rush to their homes and send their children & teens out-of-doors. Wait, what! Children & teens, roaming about in haunted streets! Yes, in the world of Lockwood & Co., only children & teens possess the Talents (Sight, Listening, & Touch), not the adults. But, not all children or teens possess the same degree of Talents. Those with weaker Talents are recruited in the Night Watch, while, the more gifted ones with heightened Talents are trained since childhood to be part of the most dangerous, yet, coveted profession in England- A Ghost-Hunter- An Agent dressed in an impeccable uniform with silver rapiers gleaming at their belts.
Besides the fascinating setting, the author gives us three awesome characters to fall in love with. The dashing Anthony Lockwood in his greatcoat, the immensely talented Lucy Carlyle (our excellent narrator), and the intelligent researcher George Cubbins. I love this trio! All three are beautifully fleshed out and are extremely likable right from the moment you meet them (and by the time you finish the book you are sure to love them!). They are loyal to each other and we see them becoming trustworthy friends. There is no spite, jealousy or competition between them, no hard feelings, only good friendship and solid team work- love it!
Coming to the plot of this book, there are two storylines- one of a girl who was murdered decades ago and another of an uber-rich industrialist who seeks the help of Lockwood & Co to de-ghost his estate, Combe Carrey Hall. The two storylines intersect marvellously and in the process, readers get an awesome YA novel. There isn’t a boring or dull moment in the book. And as we are dealing with ghosts here, there are the scares. Oh yeah! This book has a good number of scares- mind-blowing, mind-numbing, spine-tingling, and spine-chilling scares that would refrain you from reading this book at night. I personally found Chapter 11 (no spoiler) and the haunting of the Red Room & The Screaming Staircase incredibly scary. Superb! These chapters were so scary that while turning the pages I was careful not to touch the letters lest the ghosts sprang out of the pages. But, what is more, along with the scares, The Screaming Staircase also delivers good humour and wonderful cozy & light-hearted moments at Portland Row- the head office and home of Lockwood & Co..
Now I come to the most important aspect of this book that makes it stand out- the exceptionally high quality of writing and masterful storytelling of Jonathan Stroud. This is writing par excellence. I think it is the author’s splendid writing that makes the setting so interesting, the plot so engaging, the characters so likable, the humour so witty, the dialogues so memorable, and the scares so spooky. And it is the glorious writing of Mr. Stroud that has put him in the list of my all-time favourite authors.
Reading this book was an immense pleasure. A flawless novel, a real gem! Words would fail to describe the great happiness I feel to have read a YA novel of such superior quality. It has become definitely one of my favourite books. I would recommend The Screaming Staircase to everyone, young and old, as it is sure to provide readers with ample entertainment.