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The Screaming Staircase - Jonathan Stroud More at: http://thebookshelfgargoyle.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/read-it-if-review-lockwood-co-the-screaming-staircase/

I received a digital review copy of this title via NetGalley from Random House Australia.

Synopsis: In a London in which ghosts harrass the living and require special attention to be properly laid to rest, we encounter Lucy Carlyle as she attempts to gain employment with a reputable Psychic Investigation Agency. Lucy finds work with Lockwood & Co, a slightly renegade outfit comprised of fellow teens-with-paranormal-sensitivities, Anthony Lockwood and George Cubbins. Together the three attempt to employ their skills against the Problem while simultaneously dealing with looming bankruptcy and a years-old murder mystery.

Firstly, although I was immediately drawn to the title, cover art and synopsis of this book, I honestly didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did. Don't get me wrong, I expected to enjoy it - this is a genre I particularly like and I had read and enjoyed Stroud's work before. I also expected, however, that this would be your standard, readable tale of ghost-busting by a plucky and quirky teen cast.

In actual fact, the voice of the main character and the way the plot unfolded were highly engaging - so much so that I found myself continually snatching time to read (even though that required me to switch on the computer, wait the interminable time while it boots up etc etc).

The early events of the story, and the information about Lucy's childhood, put me in mind of Sabriel, she of Garth Nix's brilliant Abhorsen trilogy - a strong, young female character with wit and pluckiness to spare, but drawn in such a way as to not be stereotypical or overdone in any way. In fact, each of the three main characters was nicely balanced with flaws and foibles that fleshed them out beyond the two-dimensional. I particularly enjoyed the exchanges between Lucy and George, the humour in which really added to the more action-charged scenes later in the book.

There were a few quirks to this book that I feel the need to mention. Although the references to rapiers and ghost-lamps etc in the first part of the book may put you in mind of a historical time-frame, the story takes place in modern-day London. Also, the screaming staircase of the title doesn't come into the book until after the halfway point -this doesn't detract from the events at all, but I found that the pacing picked up considerably after this point and raced on to a very satisfying conclusion.

I highly recommend this title to readers from early teens onwards, who enjoy a good ghost romp, a bit of murder mystery and a lot of dry humour packaged in some fantastic, engaging writing.