Review #164 // The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. #1) – Jonathan Stroud

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co., #1)

The dead have been haunting the living for 50 years now. The Problem had no clear start, but it’s well known that only young children and teens can see them–and deal with them. Lucy joins the unknown Lockwood & Co., and dealing with far more than a few easy ghosts.

Why this book?: I bought a copy of this years ago, and just decided to pick it up randomly when I didn’t know what to read next.

Books like this frustrate me. On one hand, I love them. The characters were stellar, beautifully fleshed out and with dynamic relationships. Stroud’s writing, of which I’ve read before years ago, is fun and perfect for the intended middle grade audience. The world itself is interesting and I wanted to know more about the Problem as well as how it affects everyday life and I did get that.

But the plot? Or, more specifically, the plot structure? It was a complete mess. 

Everything about this book was setting itself up to be a favorite. The beginning was fast-paced and intense, and I couldn’t stop reading. And then there was a long flashback, and then a flashforward, and then, at halfway through the entire book, the main conflict (that was mentioned in the standard summary) was finally introduced, confronted, and over with with a good 10 pages left to the book. The ending itself made little sense with the information provided and then you’re just left there with no explanation, and a finished book. The beginning of the novel is connected to the second half, but there is no indication that it is until the very end, while the author almost dangles the missing information in front of your nose before showing it all off in one grand evil monologue.

I have to admit that the way both parts are connected is clever, and that it did come as a shock to me. But there were literally no clues or hints to them being connected, and I had assumed that they weren’t related at all and that the first half hadn’t even mattered, and was just there to introduce the characters. Of which it did, but with Stroud throwing you off his trail, it almost seems pointless when you get nearer to the end of the novel. As a reader, I was frustrated because I felt I had wasted my time; as a writer, I was frustrated because it would have been simple for a few extra clues to be dropped if only to hint at the connection.

Final Rating: ★★★★☆


All in all, the good outweighs the bad. As frustrating as the structure was, I can’t say that it ruined anything that Stroud had done well. I still loved the characters and their interactions, and I do have to say that the very end left be intrigued for the second one.

Would I Recommend?

Yes! If you’re looking for a fun middle grade read, I would definitely try this one out. The world building is very interesting, and I loved how Stroud introduced the Problem and told of how it affected the common people. The story was fun and intense, and, while I struggled with the structure, that didn’t make the book itself horrible.

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co., #1)

Additional Information:

Published: August 29th, 2013

Publisher: Doubleday Children’s Books

Page Count: 390

Genre: Fantasy/Mystery/Paranormal

Synopsis: via Goodreads

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 . . .

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