I have plague. That’s right, for the last two days I have been little more than a useless lump of unpleasantness. Unfortunately, one can only sleep through so much of that, and I don't have the energy what to decide what is least irritating to watch on TV, so for that time during which I am not sleeping, I read.
On the bright side, I found another tasty read that I devoured like a pan full of hot fudge. Mmmm, fudge. Yummy. Yes, well, anyway. This book is actually relatively new-ish in comparison to my usual reading material. Published just last September, ‘Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase’ by Jonathan Stroud certainly looked like a fun read, and it did not disappoint.
In an alternate reality, for the last several decades, the British Isles has been blighted by what has become known as ‘the Problem’ – a plague of ghosts, and not of the Casper variety. At best they are a damned nuisance; at worst, they are deadly. This has brought about a necessary new profession – ghost-eradicating services. Since only the young have the ability see and fight them, they are recruited as agents for these psychic detective agencies.
Powerfully sensitive Lucy Carlyle is one such agent. After an assignment in her hometown with her original team goes horribly wrong, Lucy heads to London. At first she finds difficulty finding work at the larger, well-established agencies, but the charming Anthony Lockwood recognizes her talent and hires her on at Lockwood & Co., a small agency that runs independent of adult supervision. Along with partner, George Cubbins, a pudgy and somewhat snarky fella who never met an archive – or a doughnut – he didn’t like, the three are ready to take on the worst London can throw at them.
During an assignment, the discovery of the scene of a grisly murder leads to their client’s house burning down. As word of their misadventure gets out, the jobs dry up and solving the very cold case may be their only hope of keeping the agency alive. Then one of London’s wealthiest industrialists arrives on their doorstep with a challenge. He will pay the fines on their client's incinerated house if they will spend one night in one of the most haunted houses in England, Combe Carey Hall, and more if they are able to eradicate the source of the haunting. However, the Screaming Staircase has been rumored to kill people who have heard its shrieks, and no one has ever survived a night in the mysterious Red Room. The last team to go in ended up with two dead and one never seen again.
Facing utter ruin or a job that will almost certainly lead to their demise, can Lockwood & Co triumph and save their agency?
I liked this book a lot. It would be a great read around Halloween. The book was deliciously creepy, but not overly gory, and moved at a very quick pace. Mr. Stroud definitely has a talent for action-packed prose, and it took an effort of enormous proportions just to put the book down and turn out the light. Then I lay awake wondering what happens next.
I have to say, figuring out whodunit was pretty easy for me, but I have a writer-y type of mind that thinks things like that through. Although targeted toward a younger set, this would be an entertaining read for anyone who enjoys alternate reality, steampunk or just a good scary story.
And now, darn it, I have to wait for the next one. See what I get for reading a new-ish book? Perhaps in the meantime I’ll check out Mr. Stroud’s other series, Bartimaeus to tide me over until the next Lockwood & Co. adventure.
Mostly loony, generally harmless. Writer & professional smarty pants. Owned by an exasperated spaniel.