The Screaming Staircase is a young adult supernatural thriller and the first book in the Lockwood & Co series. It is written by renowned young adult author Jonathan Stroud, the man behind the Bartimaeus Sequence series of books.
The synopsis for the story is:
When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in….
For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.
Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood.
When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.
Set in a city stalked by spectres, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humour and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again….
©2013 Jonathan Stroud (P)2013 Random House AudioGo
While the books target audience is primarily mid to late teens, after finishing it you can understand why the book has an army of fans both young and old. Unlike some young adult books, The Screaming Staircase expertly bridges the age gap with a wonderful balance of gripping storytelling, well rounded characters and plenty of horror.
The charm of the story is carefully surrounded by the macabre and horrors that involves a group of teenagers hunting ghosts. There is a genuine sense of terror throughout the story, with perfectly paced writing and a unique world in which by the end of the book, you feel you have only just scratched the surface.
The concept of ghosts now being an everyday occurrence, being tackled by agencies made up of ghost sensitive teenagers, is an intriguing one. The lore focuses on classic ghost hunting tools such as iron, salt and greek fire. So there are no proton packs to be seen here!
The three main characters are perfectly written, and each character complements the ensemble that is Lockwood & Co. Being seen as the outsiders and the poorer agency helps you relate to their underdog spirit and tenacity. The characters play off each other well and you feel that with both Lockwood, Lucy and George there is still so much more to find out about them.
Jonathan Stroud should take great pride in this book, as the story, themes and pace of the book are near perfect. He manages to teach you about the world and history of ‘The Problem’ whilst still keeping the story moving at a good pace. While the ending ‘reveal’ will become clear to some readers well before it happens, this in no way takes anything away from the book. Everything made sense and you feel very satisfied with the conclusion of the journey you have just been through.
Now we all know a great audiobook can be hurt by poor narration, so it was up to Miranda Raison to ensure that justice was done to the book. Raison played Isolde in Merlin and has appeared in Doctor Who as well as voicing Cassandra Pentaghast in Dragon Age: Inquisition.
She was able to voice Lucy perfectly, but surprisingly she also managed to do the other characters justice as well. While some male characters sounded a little similar, her performance was brilliant, especially by creating unique voices of Lockwood and George. It is also worth mentioning that the other two books each have different narrators, so it will be interesting to see the difference between them going forward.
Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase is a fun and terrifying read. You are drawn in to a world that is very unique to ones that have been created before. The characters are engaging and endearing, with plenty of warmth to balance out the moments of terror and death.
Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase is available now on Audible UK.