Of the first few hauntings I investigated with Lockwood and Co. I intend to say little, in part to protect the identity of the victims, in part because of the gruesome nature of the incidents, but mainly because, in a variety of ingenious ways, we succeeded in messing them all up. There, I’ve admitted it! Not a single one of those early cases ended as neatly as we’d have wished. Yes, the Mortlake Horror was driven out, but only as far as Richmond Park, where even now it stalks by night among the silent trees. Yes, both the Gray Specter of Aldgate and the entity known as the Clattering Bones were destroyed, but not before several further (and I now think unnecessary) deaths. And as for the creeping shadow that haunted young Mrs. Andrews… wherever she may continue to wander in this world, poor thing, there it follows too. So it was not exactly an unblemished record that we took with us, Lockwood and I, when we walked up the path to 62 Sheen Road on that misty autumn afternoon and briskly rang the bell. – The Screaming Staircase, chapter one
Is it possible to be terrified, laughing and baffled at the same time? Well, this series by the acclaimed author Jonathan Stroud proves that it is. Lockwood and Co. is set in a reality where the Problem is rampant. Ghosts walk the streets of England at night, and they’re definitely not harmless Casper types, requiring teams of young ghost hunters (the only ones who can sense them) to put their lives on the line and destroy them. Lockwood and Co. is an agency of these ghost hunters, composed of new member Lucy Carlyle, forced by a strange series of events to come to London, annoying George Cubbins and the mysterious, charismatic Anthony Lockwood.
The first book in the series, The Screaming Staircase, is a thrill ride that describes the first unusual case of the Company. Their adventures follow the ghost of a murdered girl whose case (if it’s ever solved) can save their floundering business, a string of strange and increasingly dangerous attacks, the horrifyingly haunted Combe Carey Hall, and a killer with an interest in keeping the girl’s case unsolved. I couldn’t put it down, and it’s become my favorite book in its class.*
*By its class, I mean snarky, refreshingly terrifying alternate-universe mysteries with a steampunk edge.
The second book, The Whispering Skull, hinges on an interesting discovery of Lucy’s and a bizarre and deadly new case, with an unlikely villain and even more unlikely ghosts. I can’t spoil it, but it involves some unsavory characters, another murder and the black-market trade of the relic-men. It’s a worthy sequel that even surpasses the first, with whiplash-inducing plot twists, heart-stopping scares and a neatly packaged ending that still leaves you wanting more.
You do get more, with the recently published third book, The Hollow Boy, which I haven’t read quite yet. But I have great expectations.
The story’s writing feel is guaranteed to have you mentally snickering at the clever humor and sarcastic outlook of Lucy Carlyle, who unfolds their adventures with precise and brilliant descriptive language. Every character, especially Lucy, Lockwood and George, is three-dimensional and relatable. The world they live in is a vividly described place not very different from ours, with interesting inter-agency rivalries top spice up the hunting even more.
These books are good for brave eleven-year-olds or older and fans of mysteries, adventure, horror, dystopian (possibly) or steampunk.
They’re not too scary to read before bed, but they give you delicious nightmare fuel. They have that delightfully shivery feeling that you get sometimes, when you’re terrified, excited and about to cry from book-induced nervous tension and/or major character death at the same time.^ They make you want to grab a bag of chocolate and get under the covers, because you want to read them for the nineteenth time. These are classic mystery AU in the making, readable, relatable and full of so many plot twists they look like a corkscrew. I give the Lockwood and Co. series a 9/10.
P.S. Goodreads review
^Order of the Phoenix, anyone?