This is the kind of book you fall in love with at first sight. Even when the cover of the proof is all black and claims to harbour a Type II Apparition in the bottom right hand corner. As if that would scare me!
(I gather I could download an app, and I would actually see the ghost, and then I might die from ghostlock, and that would be rather terrible, so I don’t think I will. Even so, quite exciting.)
Jonathan Stroud’s new book, The Screaming Staircase, is absolutely marvellous! At first I believed it to be Victorian. It feels Victorian, but is set today, in an ‘alternate’ Britain. My Victorian confusion lasted until I worked out that all was ‘normal’ except that some time in the middle of the last century ghosts started appearing more and more, and they became dangerous.
So what we have is a society geared towards staying safe from ghosts. There is a a curfew at night, and people surround themselves with iron and silver, and that way most of them survive. Young people are different, which is why children are sent out to patrol at night, and the agents who try and find and destroy ghosts are all in their early teens. Some of them survive.
Lockwood & Co is a small agency, consisting of Lockwood himself, George and new recruit Lucy. We meet them as they attempt to free someone’s house from its resident ghost, which might have killed the owner’s husband.
Lucy is the narrator, and she’s an intelligent and brave girl ‘not above fifteen years’ who hears ghosts more than she sees them. Her boss Lockwood (who reminded me a lot of Albert Campion) is a little vague, but runs his agency with an iron hand. Most of the time. George eats doughnuts and finds facts, besides being an awfully good agent.
The three of them encounter some pretty gruesome ghosts in a dreadfully haunted house. But it’s not only ghosts and ghostlock you need to worry about. This is a crime novel at heart. One which features ghosts and plenty of humour among all the grisly stuff.
I’d like to hear more from Lockwood & Co (apart from that letter Lockwood sent me, claiming my property is being troubled by various apparitions!). Lots more. There is little indication that there will be more, but I live in hope.