Review : The Streaming Staircase and The Whispering Skull (Lockwood and Co #1 and #2) by Jonathan Stroud
*NOW A NETFLIX SERIES*
Dive into the first book of this frightfully fun series and join the ghost-hunting gang as they defend our world from the most fearsome phantoms!
A sinister Problem has occurred in London: all nature of ghosts, haunts, spirits, and specters are appearing throughout the city, and they aren’t exactly friendly. Only young people have the psychic abilities required to see and eradicate these supernatural foes. Many different Psychic Detection Agencies have cropped up to handle the dangerous work, and they are in fierce competition for business.
In The Screaming Staircase, the plucky and talented Lucy Carlyle teams up with Anthony Lockwood, the charismatic leader of Lockwood & Co, a small agency that runs independent of any adult supervision. After an assignment leads to both a grisly discovery and a disastrous end, Lucy, Anthony, and their sarcastic colleague, George, are forced to take part in the perilous investigation of Combe Carey Hall, one of the most haunted houses in England. Will Lockwood & Co. survive the Hall’s legendary Screaming Staircase and Red Room to see another day?
Readers who enjoyed the action, suspense, and humor in Jonathan Stroud’s internationally best-selling Bartimaeus books will be delighted to find the same ingredients, combined with deliciously creepy scares, in his thrilling and chilling Lockwood & Co. series.
Please note that this is a review of book one and book two in the series
Dear Jonathan Stroud,
I have noticed that the show based on these books appeared on Netflix, however I did not watch it. Then I heard a book blogger mentioning the series very favorably and I decided to give it a try. I believe Janine reviewed the Bartimaeus trilogy here at DA a while ago. (I found the review of the first book of that trilogy in 2013, but did not search any further).
The blurb is excellent and gives you a good set up. Only kids and teenagers (presumably their talents start to fade around nineteen or twenty based on at least one character we are meeting in the first book, but I am not hundred percent sure) have an ability to fight ghosts and other evil spirits which appear in England after dark and cause all kinds of problems. Kids may start their training and sometimes even their work when they are as little as eight years of age. Once again this is my observation based on things mentioned in the first book, there was no definite rule mentioned at least in the first two books which I have read so far.
Now let’s back track a little bit. The reading age of these books is stated as ages 8-12, however in all honesty I could not put these stories down being an adult several decades older than the target audience. I thought the author wrote these with such a skilled touch. The dark atmosphere of the “after dark” London full of ghosts and other evilness that may attack you, the constant danger to the kids that fight them, a lot of really great action. I really liked all that. I have to specify that ghosts are not necessarily evil per se, but very often because of the unfinished business they have, our heroes still have to put them away.
I think what I liked the best is that the author does not downplay the dangers our characters face, even writing for a younger audience. Kids with psychic abilities do die in the books and even though so far we saw very episodic characters die, I am not at all sure that the main trio will make it out alive at the end of the book five. I both appreciate it and dread it, so if anyone who read the books can spoiler me (just tell me that you know the ending and I can email you, or do the spoiler tags which I forgot how to do :)) as to their fates, it will be much appreciated. I don’t want to read book five and be very annoyed.
Lucy narrates this book and the next one. I suspect she will narrate the rest of them too, but I do not know that. I loved her voice. I at first thought that she sounded older than her age, but then I decided that she sounded like someone who had to take a very dangerous job at the very young age.
The first book gives us the backstory of how she came to work for Lockwood and couple of cases they did together. I am glad that the author clearly knows what he wants to do with the story and things they have done in the first book, the characters that appear clearly appear there for a reason and I suspect will have a role to play in the later books.
I think the second book has one big case and the events taking place here would have even bigger repercussions in the next book. The action was almost non stop and if there was a criticism I wanted to offer, it would probably be wanting more breathing room. I loved the chemistry our trio has with each other, so I certainly would have wanted them to have more interactions when things are quieter, at least temporarily. To be fair, the author does offer some of those. I guess for the target audience more action is better than less action .
I also have to note that normally ghosts, corpses and evil spirits are very much not my kind of thing, but I really loved the main characters and the writing, so no matter how dark and grim the books can get (and yes, I got scared a few times, but I have a very low barrier for being scared, so that means nothing), I loved it and looking forward to their further adventures – if they won’t die that is.
One more thing, reading as an adult, it is often hard to convince me that kids have to do dangerous stuff without adult supervision in kids adventure books. However, of course kids like books where kids, not adults do dangerous stuff and I thought that the author’s explanation here was as good as it gets. I mean, adults really cannot help here, because they just do not see or hear the ghosts anymore as they get older.
Grade: B+. (for both books)
The Screaming Staircase buy links
The Whispering Skull buy links