Friday, 8 November 2013

Book Review: Lockwood and Co: The Screaming Staircase

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Straight to the point. I find books as good as Lockwood and Co: The Screaming Staircase very difficult to review. Why? Because I’ve enjoyed them so much I find it tough to be critical. A good review, after all, is all about balance and objectivity. Well, stuff that. I loved this book to the point of obsession. While I was reading it, I didn’t want to do anything else. Sleep, work and toilet breaks became inconveniences, and other people only existed to be told how good this book was and why they should be reading it and buying multiple copies as Christmas presents. And if those people attempted to change the subject they were cut off with a perfectly reasonable “Your new baby is pink and boring – goodbye”.

So balanced, this review is not. Obsessed, I proudly declare myself to be. The next few moments will be consist of exactly why I love this book and why I am prepared to hire a secret agent to get my hands on the next instalment asap.

First and foremost: The Screaming Staircase is comedy gold. I have never read Jonathan Stroud before so I have no clue if his other books are funny, if he is generally funny or is descended from a long line of funny family members, but going by this book, the man is in the funny elite. Stroud is the Master of comedy timing. Making a reader laugh is a rare talent. Hilarious dialogue, amusing character monologues and comedy situations all take immense skill to craft. He knows where and when to put in the laughs. He knows how to creep up behind a reader and get them right in the ribs with a tickle tackle. He got me so many times drinking hot tea became a hazard. I switched to squash.

Characterisation is another strong skill of Stroud’s. Anthony Lockwood, lead operative and owner of Lockwood and Co. Investigators is a charming boy, a little scatty around the edges, slightly bonkers and incredibly readable. He reminded me a little of the Eleventh Doctor and the BBC’s Sherlock combined. He’s a bit of a disaster waiting to happen, but his intentions are always good and he seems to know more than he lets on, imploring you to lend him the trust that his agent (and the point of view character), Lucy, already seems to have in him.

Lockwood and Lucy, along with another operative, George, hunt ghosts. They live in a world where a ghost infestation is just as real and likely as a rat infestation. They even have equipment to banish, deter and trap ghosts. It’s honestly spooky stuff, and so original and well thought-out. The plot covers a few dark themes, but the light-hearted and humorous writing style takes the edge off and always keeps it a fun read (although I will admit to a small sniffle at one point plus the occasional urge to check under my bed, inside the oven, fridge etc).

Suitable for children and adults, The Screaming Staircase is written with heart. It’s an incredible book and – now brace yourselves because I’m about to make a bold statement – I will read it again. I don’t say that often, because there are too many good books in the world to read the same one twice, but this is just one of those books that make me want to take it back to bed with a cup of tea, two slices of wholemeal and a mobile phone that I’ve, whoops, accidentally turned off how did that happen.

I can’t wait to hear more about the next book. I can’t wait for a film to be announced because I’m convinced there will be one. Lockwood and Co has the potential to be The Next Big Thing. I see a string of novels. I see myself queuing at midnight for book number seven. I see myself annoying everyone I know by continually boasting that I spotted the Lockwood and Co phenomenon before they did. In conclusion, this is my book of the year, and I look forward to visiting Lockwood and Co World sometime within the next decadeand purchasing my very own miniature ghost head in a jar and plush George.

I was lucky enough to receive a free copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley, and this in no way influenced my review.

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