The Screaming Staircase – Jonathan Stroud

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The Screaming Staircase – Lockwood & Co. #1 – Jonathan Stroud

Random House Australia, 2 September 2013

ISBN 9780857532022

RRP $24.95

Paperback  440 p.

This new series from Jonathan Stroud is the first since the Bartimaeus Sequence which sold over six million copies, and was translated in over 35 languages. The fact that Universal Studios has already picked up the film rights to Lockwood & Co. is an indicator of the enthusiasm this new series should generate.

In a London that echoes a steampunk feel, Lockwood & Co. are…well, they are ghost busters! The populace is gripped in a plague of pesky poltergeists, spooky spectres, appalling apparitions, loathsome lurkers – pretty sure you get the picture. This supernatural pestilence has been creating havoc for forty years and sales of lavender (a well known deterrent), salt (ditto) and iron or silver wards (charms hung about the person or home) have skyrocketed.

Among the many businesses which have been set up to offer protection against these unwelcome visitors, possibly the most unprepossessing is Lockwood & Co. The charming Anthony Lockwood is the proprietor and employs a nerdy sidekick named George and most lately, a skilful psychic investigator called Lucy Carlyle. While only children can see the Visitors (the Talent) and so therefore are those employed by all such agencies, Lockwood & Co. is somewhat unusual in that it is completely without any adult supervisors – a situation that can create a little doubt in some of their clients.

Throughout, the determined trio manage to set a house on fire, release dangerous spirits, send the company bust, incur the wrath of the DEPREC (Department of Psychical Research and Control, a government agency, which monitors the various agencies and works closely with the police) and generally find themselves more than once in real bother. However, in the spirit of all great adventurers, they turn the tables entirely when they solve not only a long standing Haunting but also a nasty murder, winning kudos (and financial solvency) all round.

With some wonderful humour, enough spookiness to be entertaining, some tense moments dealing with more difficult Visitors and, most of all, a terrific plot Stroud has produced a real winner with this new novel.

Highly recommended for readers from 10 onwards.

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