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 . . .
I don’t make it a habit of posting a review for books that just weren’t my cup of tea, but I really had to make an exception for The Screaming Staircase (TSS) by Jonathan Stroud (JS).
At the end of the year when Goodreads released a list of the best books in each genre for 2013, TSS was highlighted as being one of the best books for students in middle school. Since my son is in 8th grade, I thought it would be a sure thing and he’d love this book. Plus, in going to the author’s website, I was inundated with how many awards and prizes his story won. Totally done deal, right? Umm… no.
Talk about a colossal letdown. Et tu, Goodreads?
TSS starts out like any children’s book, you know, where children are alone and just either don’t need/have their parents in their lives and they have the emotional and physical stamina to persevere and thrive without them. But TSS goes one step further; the parents in this book are downright evil, selling out their children for the all-mighty dollar or pound (depending which version you bought US vs. UK).
Ghosts have somehow invaded our world and to counteract these entities, agencies whose sole purpose is to banish these ghosts have popped up all over the place. But there is one caveat: children are the top agents employed. You see, though some adults might supervise the agencies, children are the only ones who can see or hear the actual ghosts.
Heartless parents readily and easily hand over their children (while collecting their pay) to combat these deadly apparitions. There is no agency in place to safeguard these children and they are dropping like flies when the ghosts they are battling take their lives.
Lucy is an agent who upon having problems at a previous agency (problems being everyone in her team died), goes to Lockwood & Co. to ask for employment. Lockwood, (not yet an adult) is the head of his own agency along with his likewise young friend, George. They accept Lucy into their team and take a case which turns disastrous as the house they were trying to cleanse gets burned to the ground.
Never you mind they got rid of the ghost and they are still alive, nope that doesn’t matter, as the property’s value had much more worth in this case. Lockwood’s agency is reprimanded and has to come up with the cash to repair the damage they caused to the old home or close up shop forever. (Are there no lawyers in this time? A simple contract stating: We’ll cleanse your house of ghosts, but we’re not responsible for any damages incurred, just like you’re not responsible should one of us perish. Once it’s signed, you’re good to go, right? *smh*)
Just when things are at their bleakest, a case funded by a richer than Midas adult falls into their lap. Sure, every other team of children that has ever investigated this case has died, but they will be paid a hefty sum for the danger – enough to cover all the money they owe for the damages.
Lockwood readily accepts and it’s game on from there. Another backstory is interwoven as well as Lockwood & Co. try to solve another murder. Could it be that both stories are connected or are they two separate cases? And will Lockwood & Co. live to tell their the tale or will they also fall victim to the deadliest haunted house in London?
So, the preface of TSS was interesting, but the writing left a lot to be desired. The beginning of the book starts a la Quentin Tarantino – with a lot of skipping around the timeline, before we finally settle into the current state of affairs.
JS also describes everything to death – from the decor in the room, to the character’s clothes – it all gets annotated and recounted crease by crease. This made for an extremely tedious read.
But probably the most unforgivable offense I encountered was that in fact, TSS was not scary as the summary promises it to be. Please don’t buy this book thinking your pre-teen will love how chilling and suspenseful it is. Trust me, it’s not.
TSS is actually sad. There were no repercussions for the way parents were treating their children, and the only outcome of a dead child was a certain loss of income for the family. I could go on indefinitely and tell you the extensive list of other problems with this book, but trust me when I say you’re better off steering clear of TSS.
- no sexual content