Stroud, Jonathan. The Screaming Staircase
September 17th 2013
Copy received from Deb Shapiro & Company
Like the wonderful Bartimaeus Trilogy, this book is set in a slightly alternative London. It's fairly modern, with cars and Velcro, but there is a Problem that has changed the entire society. Visitors, or ghosts, are haunting many places violently. People are afraid to walk around at night, and removing the ghosts takes professional help. Enter Anthony Lockwood, who runs a small ghost removal company with the help of the schlumpy George. He hires Lucy, who has traveled to London after a disastrous ghost hunting encounter in her rural hometown. Since teens can see ghosts more easily than adults, Lockwood and Company operates without any adult supervision, which irritates various departmental agencies. When Lucy and Lockwood manage to find the Source of a Visitor at Mrs. Hope's house, they manage to dispatch it, but also burn down the house. Mrs. Hope wants recompense, but the company is struggling so much that they may have to close. They hope that the mystery surrounding the murder of Annabel Ward, the ghost in question, might help them reach prominence, but they aren't quite able to tie up all the ends. Luckily, Mr. Fairfax, who has made a lot of money selling iron furnishings that help ward off the ghosts, hires them to solve the mystery of the Red Room and the Screaming Staircase at his poshly appointed country house, Combe Carey Hall. The group manages to do this, and in the process, find some interesting connections to the first mystery. A sequel is certainly on the way.
Strengths: So very good! Excellent world building that didn't have me asking any questions, just completely believing the reason for Lockwood and Co. as well as it's adult free existence! The ghost fighting was action-packed, Stroud describes everything (especially George, I have to agree with Betsy Bird on this one!) brilliantly, and the mysteries were intricately interwoven. Just the right mixture of scary and swashbuckling. Can't wait to see what the next one will bring, and if we will find out more about what happened to Lockwood's parents.
Weaknesses: I wasn't able to save this until a rainy Sunday afternoon and curl up under an afghan with an appropriate amount of tea and biscuits. That is really how this book should be properly savored. I also could have used a tiny bit more romance between Lucy and Lockwood; it was hinted at, and I was able to imagine a lot of it, which might actually be a good call for the target demographic, but was slightly disappointing personally.
There is a YouTube video available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUfYuhW6Kqg.