Lockwood and Co by Jonathan Stroud is his second YA series after the Bartimeaus books. It is appropriately printed by Random House considering that we randomly picked it up for lack of anything else to read. Often it is the unanticipated book that one hasn’t heard much of, that when picked up, turns out to be such good fun.
The series is set in an alternate London which is different (and nicely so) in that it does not have computers and the internet and all research has to be done in the library. But it’s not just calm and old fashioned because the world has to deal with what is called ‘the Problem’. Nobody knows why the Problem has arisen but basically it means that the ghosts come out after dark and for the living to be ‘ghost touched’ means the end. Only children can see the ghosts and so only they can get rid of them. As a result physic investigation agencies are set up and they hire children as agents (basically ghost busters). Lucy Carlyle joins Anthony Lockwood and George Cubbins at Lockwood and Co, the smallest agency and one that does not have any adult supervision.
LL: Young people in books these days deal with situations with the kind of maturity that one would attribute to adults.
PS: In fact, they probably deal with it with much more maturity. Adults in those kinds of situations would mostly panic and be unable to think out of the box.
LL: Very exciting times for children who read.
PS: It’s surprising they can enjoy such scary stuff.
LL: I should really be ashamed to be saying this, but the book really scared me. It was very chilling in parts. Maybe because I haven’t read a ghost story in a long time.
PS: I don’t generally read ghost stories, at least not the scary ones.
LL: All those fantasy books we read have magical creatures, ghouls and ghosts but the main characters are either fighting them or joining forces with them.
PS: But even the ones being fought are at a distance with battle lines drawn up. They aren’t creeping about, haunting people around every street corner.
LL: The book is actually very dark in its premise if you really think about it. But such fun. Although I must say that the screaming staircase hardly figures much in it.
PS: Very gothic and sensational, sending chills up your spine but you can’t tear yourself away. Bit like a penny dreadful but I say that as a compliment.
LL: I know what you mean. It’s all that sensation and adventure. And the characters are always eating. There is food, mostly junk of course, featuring mountains of doughnuts.
PS: That’s because there are no parents around to force the kids to eat their greens and carrots. I love all the tea drinking though.
LL: The tea is part of the ghost fighting arsenal.
PS: Well, we always knew that drinking tea is the most effective way of handling any kind of chills. Also, the language in the book is clean and humorous and though it is a scary story (perhaps best read with a steaming cup of tea), it’s the characters that remain with you and not the ghosts.
LL: All the characters are well formed and their relationships to each other nicely depicted. Lockwood is unflappable, Lucy is capable and yet at times irritable and impulsive and George who likes to research is also in charge of the kitchen.
PS: Not to forget the skull that lives in a bottle in Lockwood’s very interesting house full of artefacts from around the world. And there is the mystery of the closed room which Lockwood has forbidden the others from entering.
LL: Which I suppose we will find out about in the later books. But this book sets a great tone for the series. Can’t wait to read the next one.