I love a good ghost story, something that will scare me a bit. Children’s horror is one of my favourite genres and I’ll snap up anything new that comes along. When I first heard about Jonathan Stroud’s new series, Lockwood and Co., I knew that it would be exactly the sort of creepy ghost story I would love. The first book in the series, The Screaming Staircase takes you inside the world of the ghost-hunters of Lockwood and Co. and once you’ve entered you won’t want to leave.
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.
The Screaming Staircase is one of the most exciting books I’ve read this year. Jonathan Stroud had me on the edge of my seat, anticipating a ghost to jump out at me around every twist and turn of the plot. Jonathan has created such a chilling atmosphere in the book that you hear the creaks and groans of the old houses and almost feel the temperature drop in the room as the characters get closer to the ghosts. You get caught up in the mystery of the lives of the living and the dead and Jonathan keeps you in suspense.
I love the world that Jonathan has created in the book; one much like ours but one plagued by ghosts of all sorts. There are different types of ghosts, from a Type One Shade to a Type Two Wraith. There are Physic Investigation Agencies (of which Lockwood and Co. is one) which specialise in the ‘containment and destruction of ghosts.’ These are run by adult supervisors but rely on the strong physic Talent of children. It is only children who can see and hear the ghosts so it is up to them to capture them. There is no mention of when the story is set (which I think just makes the story even better), but there is a mixture of both old-fashioned clothes and weapons, and modern technology. The ghost hunters’ kit includes an iron rapier, iron chains and magnesium flares, all of which prove extremely necessary when facing the spectral threats. Jonathan has even included a detailed glossary of terms and types of ghost, which I found really interesting to read after I had finished the book.
The three main characters, all members of Lockwood and Co., are all fantastic characters who really grew on me as the story progressed. They each have their quirks, especially Lockwood and George, but they make a brilliant team and have each others’ backs when it counts. There’s no love triangle here, just good old-fashioned camaraderie and getting the job done (if it doesn’t kill them first). Lockwood, George and Lucy are building their relationship in this book, so there are some tense moments between them (especially George and Lucy) but Jonathan’s dialogue is brilliant. I’m looking forward to seeing how their relationships develop in the further books.
I can’t wait for more Lockwood and Co.! If you want a book that you won’t want to put down, that you’ll want to read with the lights on, then Lockwood and Co.: The Screaming Staircase is perfect. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
One of my favourite genres of stories for children and teens is horror. There weren’t many of these types of book around when I was younger, but there is plenty to choose from these days, from Derek Landy and Joseph Delaney, to Darren Shan and Barry Hutchison. Chris Priestley is an author of spooky, chilling and creepy stories that I’ve been reading more of lately and his latest book, Through Dead Eyes is a new favourite.
Alex joins his father on a business trip to Amsterdam. During the day he hangs out with the daughter of a family friend. They visit the usual sights but also coffee shops and flea markets off the beaten track. At one of these markets Alex spots an ancient-looking mask. Before he knows what he’s doing he buys it. Later, in his hotel room, he feels compelled to put the mask on. Alex is sucked into a parallel Amsterdam, one from centuries before which begins to reveal the dark past of both the building he is staying in and the little girl who once lived there edging stealthily towards the terrible twist.
Through Dead Eyes is a chilling ghost story that haunts you long after you’ve turned the last page. I read it on a wet and dreary day which added to the chilling tone. Chris Priestley really knows how to keep the reader on edge throughout the story. The thing I love the most about Chris’s writing is that there are lots of twists that you don’t see coming, especially towards the end of the story, and he leaves you with a feeling of unease. You know that, even though the story has finished, things are not right in the life of the characters. Like any good ghost story you get pieces of the puzzle as the story progresses and you’ve got to figure out how they all fit together. You just hope that the main character solves the puzzle before it’s too late.
The setting of Amsterdam adds to the eerie feeling of the story, because Alex is surrounded by so much history. The buildings are hundreds of years old and they would hold many stories. Alex is drawn to the history of the hotel he is staying in and the strange feelings he has inside his room. This history and the connection between the mask and the paintings draw you in to the story.
The cover is fantastic and captures the tone of the story perfectly. It was the cover, with the mottled and cracked surface, and the creepy eye, that grabbed my attention and made me pick it up.
Through Dead Eyes is great for readers aged 11+ who like to give themselves a good scare.
If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ll know that I love creepy stories of all kinds. Ghosts, werewolves, zombies, vampires, and other creatures that live in the dark are often featured in the books I love. I’ve been reading many of the first titles from Hot Key Books (a brilliant new publisher based in the UK) and when I read about Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones I had to get my hands on it. A ghost story set in Victorian London, featuring a boy who could communicate with ghosts, sounded absolutely fantastic! Constable & Toop was even better than it sounded.
Sam Toop lives in a funeral parlour, blessed (or cursed) with an unusual gift. While his father buries the dead, Sam is haunted by their constant demands for attention. Trouble is afoot on the ‘other side’ – there is a horrible disease that is mysteriously imprisoning ghosts into empty houses in the world of the living. And Sam is caught in the middle – will he be able to bring himself to help?
Constable & Toop is a creepy, gruesome story, with plenty of mystery, and a good dose of wit and humour. Gareth can have you cringing one moment and laughing the next, which is why I liked the book so much. He has given us a glimpse inside the ghost world and it’s not what you would expect. It’s the ghost world and the witty banter between his characters that provide the comic relief of the story. There is also plenty of throat slitting and stabbing for those who like their ghost stories gruesome. The story is set in Victorian London and from the first page you are immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of the period.
There are several different threads of the story, following different characters, which Gareth weaves together perfectly. Gareth shows us the lives of the living and the dead, and the ‘Talkers’ allow them to communicate with each other. Characters whose lives seem quite separate from each other in the beginning become increasingly intertwined as the story progresses.
The thing I liked the most about Constable and Toop was the way that Gareth portrayed the ghost world. It’s very bureaucratic, with each ghost having a role, like Enforcer or Prowler, and there are lots of rules and regulations that ghosts must follow. If they don’t do as they are told they’re labelled Rogues and are hunted down. There is an incredible amount of paperwork that needs to be filled out to do anything, and you must have a license in order to be a Poltergeist. In order to go to the physical world and find out what your unfinished business is (so that you can step through the Unseen Door and cross over) you have to apply for a research license. Lapsewood is my favourite character because he’s a very likeable guy, who just wants to get away from all the paperwork and get some adventure out in the real world (while impressing the girl of his dreams). He has some of the best lines and has some incredibly strange conversations with his superiors, who can never seem to get his name right.
If you want a ghost story with a difference grab a copy of Constable and Toop by Gareth P. Jones. I would recommend it for fans of Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant series, Joseph Delaney’s Spook’s Apprentice series, or Barry Hutchison’s Invisible Fiends series.
5 out of 5 stars
If you’re a fan ofThe Spook’s Apprentice series by Joseph Delaney, you’ll be excited to hear the latest book in the series, The Spook’s Blood is released in NZ this month. I love this gripping, creepy series and I’m always excited to read the next installment. Grab your copy from your library or bookshop now in July.
Michelle Harrison’s new book, Unrest, is my latest obsession. It’s one of the creepiest, spine-tingling books I’ve read and makes me consider sleeping with the light on. It’s out now in NZ. Check out the creepy book trailer for Unrest and hear Michelle talk about her book and her top 5 ghost stories