“Of the first few hauntings I investigated with Lockwood & 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 is an epidemic of ghosts in Britain. Their touch brings death, and only children have the power to fight them.
Lucy Carlyle, a young psychic investigator, joins London’s smallest agency, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood and his ever-hungry assistant George Cubbins. Together the trio must investigate some of the spookiest and deadliest spectral hauntings in the city, armed only with the tools of the ghost-hunting trade (magnesium flares, iron filings, chains and salt bombs), their courage and a thermos of tea.
Ghosts and ghouls beware!
4 STARS ACROSS THE BOARD
TW: lots of ghosts and death in all books, and a fair bit of blood as well
Let it be known that the quote up above is the very first line of the first book, and the series is chock full of ghost-related sass from teenage Ghostbusters from there on out.
Also let it be known that I LOVED THIS SERIES SO MUCH.
I’ll be honest: I’m easily spooked, and I had to stop reading The Screaming Staircase before I went to bed to keep myself from staying up all night out of paranoia. During the daylight hours, I’m not especially inclined towards belief in ghosts, but when the house is dark and silent and totally still at two in the morning and you’ve hit the part of the book that’s peak ghost creepy? Well, things going bump in the night are a lot easier to believe at that point.
Gently freaking myself out aside, this series was absolutely incredible. It was filled with snark from all the main characters (oh, I love me some excellent snark), Lucy Carlyle is a stubborn gem of a POV character, and the atmosphere is positively incredible. You really do get the sense that something spooky and sinister is at work at all times, and the underlying arc of the series only cements that feeling with every passing book. That arc also feels a lot like it belongs in the mystery genre, and I cannot resist a blend of paranormal and mystery. I just can’t do it. Plus, there’s a bit of a heist element to one of the books that brings joy to my little thief-loving heart. That’s just a lovely little cherry on top.
The rules of the universe Stroud has set up are also great! I’m guessing it’s set in 1960-70s London or thereabouts (the time period is never actually confirmed), but the Problem, the ghosts, are phenomenally established. Only children can properly see, hear, or otherwise sense ghosts beyond a vague feeling of dread and chill, which makes them the only defense against the rising numbers of the dangerous dead. There are also consistent consequences for physical contact with a ghost (usually a very quick and cold death), and there are a variety of ghosts, all nicely detailed in a glossary at the back of the book that brings me so much joy for reasons I just can’t explain.
I’ll admit that I had a few frustrations along the way, though, largely about the way Lucy interacted with other female characters (authors everywhere, I promise you don’t need to go the jealous drama route). That was slowly resolved and turned into something more positive, though, and there were consequences for the pettiness between the girls while it lasted, so that’s something. Additionally, the middle of the series dragged a little bit, particularly in The Creeping Shadow, as all the pieces began to fall into place. I’m not too disappointed in it since I so rarely see series that have a strong, dynamic middle that lives up to the prior book(s), but it was enough of a slowdown that I was unhappy with it while it lasted.
And now that I think about it, I’m not pleased with how George Cubbins was treated as a fat joke so constantly (though thank goodness he did in his actions get solid treatment as the brains of the operation), and one character is totally queer as of the final book but it’s heavily implied and not outright stated despite A NEARLY CONFESSIONAL CONVERSATION and I am upset that it wasn’t more in the open because I would have wanted that.
But the end of the day, the Lockwood and Co. series is going to remain a favorite for a long, long, long time. It’s fun and witty and spooky and imaginative, and with the exception of setting the first book down to go to bed and not get myself all scared out of my wits for silly reasons, each time I picked one up, I finished it in the same sitting. They are that good and I’m so happy to have discovered them, purely by accident.
Have you read the Lockwood and Co. series? If you have, who’s your favorite character? What’s your favorite kind of ghost? And if you haven’t, do you think you will? Please come shout at me about it if you do because I’m going to love talking about this series for probably the next thousand years lol.