One of my most anticipated books of the autumn publishing period, Lockwood & Co is a spooky ghost novel from the amazingly talented Jonathan Stroud, author of the Bartimaeus Sequence. As I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion, I love a good Horror novel, so I’ve been really looking forward to it… And it did NOT disappoint!
Ever since The Problem came to England, Ghosts & Spirits have been preying on the population, terrifying & even killing with their chilling ghost touch. Whilst adults cannot see or hear most Visitors, Children are able to use their innate psychic gifts to track them, & soon companies are set up across the country, specialising in ridding haunted sites of their undead inhabitants. London based Lockwood & Co are an upstart agency ran by the brilliantly talented young Anthony Lockwood, with his assistants George Cubbins & Lucy Carlyle. Unlike most agencies, Lockwood & Co operate without specialist adults to guide them, & this difference allows them the flexibility they need to become the best Ghost Eradication Agency in the country. However, after a poorly researched expedition goes awry, the group end up burning down a client’s house & owing a substantial amount of money in repairs. When the incredibly wealthy Mr. Fairfax offers Lockwood & Co the chance to pay off their debts & more, investigating the most haunted house in England, Combe Carey Hall, the company jump at it. But can Lockwood & Co survive the night in a house that has claimed hundreds of lives, including other agents? Will they get to the bottom of the mystery of the Hall’s Red Room & Screaming Staircase? And why does it seem almost too good to be true that Mr. Fairfax is offering to help them just when they need it most?
Lockwood & Co is told from the perspective of Lockwood’s assistant, Lucy Carlyle, a tenacious & passionate young girl with an intense talent for hearing spirits, as well as sensing their history through touch. She’s a brilliant mix of level-headedness & emotional depth, providing great insight into the group’s investigations, as well as the sadness & despair of the Visitors that they encounter. Lucy is a really easy to relate with character, & her caring & strength of resolve make for a great narrator to keep the reader engaged with the fates of both the main characters, & the spirits they investigate. Lockwood is a charming leader with an easy, eclectic genius, conjuring images of Sherlock Holmes or The Doctor, tall & elegant. He’s often quiet, contemplative & thoughtful, but his sudden outbursts of excitable inspiration make him an endearing, but distracted character. He’s far from perfect, but his childlike exuberance makes up for his flaws. Finally, George is a bumbling, sarcastic addition to the team, with a razor sharp tongue & an amazing talent for sifting through research on haunted locations, death records & drudging up hidden secrets.
Jonathan Stroud is a brilliantly creative writer, & his descriptive passages are haunting. The way he unveils Visitors, in a slow, ponderous way creates a terrifyingly uneasy edge of expectation. Passages literally pour with the dread of some hideous spirit lurking just out of shot, & this adds to the general feel of the universe the book inhabits: One of tension, unease & constant paranoia. As well as his descriptive prowess though, Stroud creates a compelling cold-case murder mystery, interweaving plots from various cases, across a 50 year gap. He expertly drops hints & twists into the plot to keep the reader guessing until the very end, & the resolution ties all the threads neatly, whilst leaving enough to make the promise of a sequel very appealing. As well as drama, mystery & spine-chilling horror though, Lockwood & Co is also deeply fascinating, with staccato bursts of humour, as well as a complex history & universe to explore. All this, tied together with three interesting, notably different but equally engaging characters means The Screaming Staircase is bound to be a big hit, & Lockwood & Co is going to be a series to watch out for.
Book 2, The Whispering Skull, should be due out next year.
Thanks for reading!