Literature / Lockwood & Co.

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A fantasy series written by Jonathan Stroud, following the adventures of a ghost detection agency of the same name. In an alternate London where the dead haunt the living, Lucy Carlyle, a talented ghost hunter recently employed at the eponymous agency, must save her new job, career and sanity with the help of her partners Anthony Lockwood and George Cubbins.

In the first book, The Screaming Staircase, a mysterious locket and a botched investigation causes the employees of Lockwood & Co. to face the threat of home and joblessness. They become heavily involved in the investigation of a nefarious crime, and the haunting of an old mansion with a dark past.

In the second book, The Whispering Skull, Lockwood & Co. are hired to supervise the opening of a mysterious unregistered grave, and get entangled in a search for an occult artifact of dark origins.

The third book, The Hollow Boy, sees London in the grip of an unprecedented outbreak of supernatural activity. Amidst the chaos, Lockwood & Co. have to cope with massive workload, dangerous ghosts and a new employee, the ridiculously efficient Holly Munro.

The fourth book, The Creeping Shadow, was published in September 2016. In this new title, Lucy is freelancing following her departure from Lockwood & Co. at the end of the previous installment. She and the team are reunited when Lockwood seeks her out to enlist her services for a tough case, but there are shady, manipulative forces at work...

Lockwood & Co.:
  1. The Screaming Staircase (2013)
  2. The Whispering Skull (2014)
  3. The Hollow Boy (2015)
  4. The Creeping Shadow (September 13, 2016)

On June 7, Stroud stated in a Facebook chat that the current plan is to wrap up the series in a fifth book to following The Creeping Shadow.

Lockwood & Co. contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Lucy, as well as all the other female agents.
  • Adults Are Useless: Only children and teenagers are able to see ghosts, so adults must rely on them and their senses in order to deal with hauntings.
  • Alternate Universe: About 50 years prior to the start of the story, ghosts start popping up all over the world and attacking people, prompting the creation of agencies intended to fight them.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Holly Munro is described as having coffee-colored skin. Her ethnicity is never mentioned.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Sir Rupert Gale.
  • Awesome McCool Name: Lockwood's old mentor, "Gravedigger" Sykes. His first name was actually Nigel.
  • Badass Longcoat: Lockwood tends to wear long coats, one of which you can see on the cover. Of course, Reality Ensues where his coat ends up getting caught in things.
  • Before The Dark Times: Before the first emergence of The Problem, the world here was relatively normal and much like our own.
  • Big Eater: George.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Penelope Fittes.
  • Black Market: Following the onset of The Problem, any and all historical artifacts were shunned as potentially dangerous items from which ghosts might arise. Over time, however, there emerged a shadowy black market of people interested in collecting these objects and relic-men in the business of acquiring them and selling them to the highest bidder.
  • Blind Without 'Em: George is extremely short-sighted. This actually saves his life when presented with the Artifact of Doom.
  • Body Horror: The symptoms of someone who is touched by a ghost: their bodies swell and turn blue. They die very quickly if not given immediate medical attention, a fate that Lockwood avoided but Fairfax did not.
  • Book Dumb: Not overtly stated, but Lucy sometimes has trouble with "big" words. Giving that she is of working class background and had been working as a full-time agent since she was eight, she probably didn't have much time for formal schooling.
  • Ghost In A Jar: The ghost-jar that George tinkers with. Unlike other contained Sources, the Source in the ghost-jar is active and likes to taunt and scare the people who look at it. At the end of the first book, a small leak on the ghost-jar allows it to be able to talk to Lucy. In books two and three Lucy uses her connection with the thing for information.
  • Bread and Circuses: Used almost word-to-word by the head of one of the major agencies while explaining the rationale for throwing a huge festival in the middle of one of the worst ghost crises ever.
  • Buried Alive: In the third book, it turns out that all the remaining inmates of the notorious King's Prison, which was demolished circa the 16th century, were sealed under it when it was toppled down instead of being driven out as everyone thought. Their ghosts are understandably pissed off.
  • The Charmer: Lockwood, which is why George and Lucy somehow find themselves still sticking with him, even if they give their boss a lot of flak.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The locket that Lockwood and Lucy find on a skeleton.
    • The goggles stolen from Fairfax's manor in book one.
    • The spirit capes found at Portland Row.
  • Cobweb Jungle: Spiders are attracted to ghostly activity, so a good sign that there's a ghost around is lots and lots of cobwebs.
  • Cold Iron: Iron is a common deterrent against ghosts, and is nearly ubiquitous in the world: from rapiers made from iron to charms to even mobiles for children.
  • Collector of the Strange: Lockwood's parents were this, apparently. Julius Winkman and the relic-men also cater to people who collect haunted objects.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Agents usually wear uniform jackets whose color immediately identifies the agency they belong to. Averted by Lockwood and Co., which makes many people wonder about their seriousness as an agency.
  • Combat Tentacles: Used by a shape-shifting ghost in book three.
  • Crazy-Prepared: George keeps a complete set of ghost-hunting supplies in his bedroom.
  • Creepy Cemetery: Due to the nature of The Problem, pretty much all of them. The government actually hires specialized contractors to gradually clear them out. Our heroes get a taste of it in Kensal Green Cemetery.
  • Crusty Caretaker: Bert Starkins, the caretaker of Combe Carey Hall.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Hinted with Lockwood.
  • Dark World: The Other Side as seen in the fourth book. A dry, frozen and dark reflection of the regular world, populated by dead people who really don't like to be disturbed.
  • Deadpan Snarker: All of Lockwood & Co.
  • Deer in the Headlights: The "ghost-lock" power some Type Two ghosts have invoke this; victims trapped in a ghost-lock are sapped of their willpower, feel an overwhelming sense of despair, and are unable to move even as the ghost approaches them. Luckily, it can be fought off.
  • Dirty Coward: Subverted and discussed with Quill Kipps. Lucy thinks so after he bolts and abandons his team in the middle of a particularly nasty haunting; later, and after she witnesses him risk his life for a fellow agent, Kipps explains his actions in a way that makes them at least understandable (his Psychic Powers faded when he reached maturity. Walking into haunted zones over and over again without being able to really see the ghosts or protect himself causes him to reach breaking point from time to time).
  • Doppelgänger: The Fetch in the third book, which assumes the forms of people important to its victims to try and lure them to their deaths.
  • Downer Ending: The ending of The Hollow Boy has Lucy choose to leave Lockwood and Co. because she feels her unique talents put the group in danger. It's enough to put George off his cake.
  • The Empath: Lucy has a variety of this which only applies to ghosts.
  • Evil Counterpart:
    • Joplin to George. Both are short-sighted scholars specializing on the supernatural whose curiosity tends to get the better of them; Joplin is even described as having some of George's physical mannerisms.
    • Kipps' team in the second book to Lockwood and Co. (although not really evil, just antagonistic and unpleasant). Quill Kipps, the leader who boasts his fencing skills, is this to Lockwood; Bobby Vernon, the small, physically weak agent specializing on research to George; and Kate Godwin, the token girl with the listening Talent to Lucy. Ned Shaw joins as The Brute.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Cats avoid areas that ghosts are haunting.
  • The Face: Lockwood, the socially savvy and incredibly charismatic leader of the agency.
  • Fair-Weather Mentor: Agent Jacobs, due in part to his own experience as a ghost hunter as a child. His negligence leads to all of Lucy's friends and fellow agents getting killed. In the trial against him he claimed not to be able to hear Lucy calling for help, or to hear any of the children screaming. Instead of returning to work with him, Lucy leaves and heads to London.
  • Fat and Skinny: George and Lockwood. Lockwood is also tall, while George is a little shorter than Lucy.
  • Fat Slob / Genius Slob: Not as bad as some examples, but George tends to leave a mess wherever he goes: dirty dishes, dropped clothes, etc.
  • Footprints of Muck: The bloody footprints appearing on the staircase of Ms. Wintergarden's house in the third book.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: One measure the British government instituted to protect their citizens, particularly in smaller towns; dusk is marked by a tolling of bells, and is a sign that people should be heading back to the safety of their homes.
  • Free-Range Children: Invoked in the agency of Lockwood & Co., which is run by just the three kids without any adult supervision. However, they are licensed—at least Lockwood is, fully, and thus acts as de facto leader—and other agencies and their clients doubt their abilities and efficiency. They are also still required to take care of adult things, like fines for damages incurred on their jobs.
  • Freudian Trio: Our heroes. Lucy is the Id, sensitive to the emotions of the undead, George is the Superego, insistent on research and preparation above Talent, and Lockwood is the Ego, balancing the two and making the decisions.
  • Genre Savvy: Pretty much a survival skill for agents.
    Lockwood: What were they thinking? Who builds houses on the site of an old Victorian hospital that burned down on tragic circumstances?
    George: I know. It's almost the first rule of planning.
  • Ghostly Chill: Naturally. A good sign of ghostly activity.
  • Gilligan Cut: Lockwood ends one chapter laughingly asking Lucy what could possibly go wrong with their combined psychic talents. Next chapter:
    It’s amazing how quickly a fire can spread in an average suburban house.
  • Goggles Do Something Unusual: Near the end of The Screaming Staircase Fairfax wore a prototype which presumably let him see ghosts.
    • Confirmed in The Creeping Shadow and used by Quill Kipps.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: The DEPRAC (the Department of Psychical Research and Control) which was established in response to the Problem.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Lucy is extremely jealous of Holly Munro, due to her looks, her charisma and especially the attention Lockwood gives her.
  • Gross-Up Close-Up: The ghost in the ghost-jar loves pulling this on people when they take a look at it.
  • Haunted Castle: Combe Carey Hall, an old abbey that is one of the most haunted locations in England.
  • Haunted Fetter: Called "Sources" here; finding and eliminating Sources—usually what's left of the ghost's body—is the main objective in an investigation.
  • Haunted House: Basically every single house Lockwood & Co. investigates.
  • Haunted House Historian: The caretaker of Combe Carey Hall, Bert Starkins, a particularly grumpy old man. Played for Laughs when he takes the trio on a tour of the property and it seems like every single feature of the place has some gruesome story.
  • Hell Is That Noise:
    • What happens when the Screaming Staircase starts screaming.
    • Less loudly, the repeated clicking sound at the Ealing Cannibal's house. Lucy eventually recognizes it as the sound of clicking teeth.
  • Hero Insurance: Averted. Lockwood & Co. faces massive fines and the threat of eviction after burning down a haunted house.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Steve Rotwell ends up falling into the giant circle of Sources he created and is presumably killed by the ghosts inside it.
  • I Call It "Vera": George names a giant flare he stole "Big Brenda". After having it for about twenty minutes.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The Ealing Cannibal from The Creeping Shadow.
  • I'm Cold... So Cold...: Said nearly word for word by a ghost that Lucy and Lockwood encounter.
  • Improbable Age: Justified in this universe, but even Lucy wonders how Lockwood managed to buy his parents' house with enough money left to start his own agency as a young teen.
  • I'm Standing Right Here: Lockwood has to remind Lucy and George of his presence while they're having an argument about his emotional well-being.
  • Infant Immortality: Horribly averted. Only children and teenagers can see ghosts, and so they're sent ahead of their adult supervisors and into the most danger when investigating haunted areas. Child ghosts are also rather common.
  • Ironic Nickname: Little Tom was very big in real life. The nickname causes an almost fatal confusion between him and his murderer, a teenager who appears as a small, childlike ghost.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: George isn't nearly as charming as Lockwood, and he has his own set of bad habits, but he does care for both Lockwood and Lucy.
    • Quill Kipps turns out to have many more noble qualities than initially given credit for. He helps Lockwood and Co. of his own accord in book three and leaves his position as supervisor at the Fittes Agency in book four because he can't bear sending others to fight for him.
  • Kill It with Fire: Fire is pretty good against ghosts, both in eliminating the actual ghost or the source, their body. A variety of white-phosphorus grenades are used quite commonly in paranormal agencies.
  • Last Name Basis: Lockwood. The only person who does call him by his first name—as "Tony"—is Kipps. Later, Penelope Fittes also starts addressing him as "Anthony".
  • The Leader: Lockwood, of the charismatic variety.
  • Lethally Stupid: Anthony Lockwood has shades of this. For example, when he was pushing his employees to explore the Hall with him.
  • Magic Mirror: The bone glass, an Artifact of Doom which might or might not be a window into the world of the dead. No one who gave it a proper look lived to tell.
  • Magnetic Medium: The skull claims that Lucy is this due to her unusual Talent.
  • Master Swordsman: Lockwood. All agents carry rapiers, but he's actually good with it.
  • Mirror Scare: The ghost of the witch in The Creeping Shadow can only be seen in reflections, so naturally she does this all the time.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Dr. Edmund Bickerstaff, physician, grave-robber and dabbler in dark arts.
  • More Than Mind Control: Bickerstaff's control over Joplin was founded on the latter's insatiable curiosity for knowledge on the Other Side. The same goes for George, to a lesser extent.
  • My Greatest Failure: Lockwood's is the death-by-ghost of his sister Jessica, which he feels he could have prevented if he'd been nearer when the incident happened. This is a major drive in both his hatred for ghosts and his extreme protectiveness towards his team.
  • Mysterious Mist: A side-effect of a ghostly manifestation, described as being white-green in color.
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever happened in Mrs. Barrett's tomb.
  • Obsessed with Food: George, which goes with being a Big Eater.
  • Occult Detective: Whole agencies of them, of which Lockwood & Co. is one.
  • Older Than They Look: If the whispering skull's statement at the end of The Creeping Shadow is to be believed, then Penelope Fittes is the same person as her supposed grandmother, Marissa Fittes, but doesn't look a day older than the skull first met her, around forty years before.
  • Oop North: Lucy's background.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: They're often called "Visitors" here. Quite a lot of types are present or mentioned and they're categorized as:
    • Type Ones are the usually harmless, if troublesome variety.
    • Type Twos have a purpose of some kind, and can turn violent.
    • Type Threes haven't been officially proven; they can supposedly be communicated with. The ghost in George's ghost jar turns out to be this in the end of the first book, when it starts talking to Lucy.
  • Paranormal Investigation: Massive industries are built around this, from the agencies doing the investigations to the companies providing them the tools to do the investigating.
  • Parental Abandonment: Lucy's mother ships her off to train as a ghost inspector. Implied to be pretty standard, as child labor is ubiquitous in this world.
  • The Pig Pen: Flo Bones, a homeless scavenger who is always covered with river mud and other filth.
  • Poltergeist: One of the Type Two ghosts mentioned in the glossary of the book. A particularly strong one is encountered in the third book.
  • Psychic Children: Children and teenagers are the only ones who can clearly detect and deal with ghosts.
  • Psychological Torment Zone: Haunted places; the effects range from a general sense of unease to Heroic B.S.O.D.-inducing terror.
  • Power Trio: The three main characters.
  • Rain of Blood: The manifestation of one particularly creepy Visitor in Combe Carey Hall. Also the reason why the Red Room is called that.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Inspector Barnes, while not very pleasant, is perfectly reasonable. He objects to Lockwood & Co. acting without an adult supervisor, and is definitely justified when they accidentally burn down half of a client's house.
  • Refusal of the Call: When the ghost in George's ghost-jar starts talking to her, and mentions things like being The Only One for something, Lucy's initial reaction is to seal up the jar again.
  • The Rival: Quill Kipps, who belongs to the Fittes agency. He knows both George and Lockwood and isn't on very good terms with both of them. Officially put to rest in the fourth book. Kipps resigns from Fittes and by the end of the book it's heavily implied he will be joining Lockwood and Co. at least semi-permanently.
  • Rivals Team Up: Lockwood and Lucy temporarily join forces with Kipps and his team at the end of the second book.
    • Also in the third book, although the rivalry seems to be wearing thin at this point.
  • Screw the Ghosts, We're Partying!: The London elite and agency high-ups constantly arrange fancy parties and society events as a life-affirming way to cope with the Problem. Verges on While Rome Burns.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Ghosts can be trapped or preserved when their Sources are locked into silver-glass boxes.
  • Secret Test of Character: When Lucy comes in to be interviewed for Lockwood & Co., the first test she's given is that she's presented with an ordinary object and asked what she can sense from it. After several minutes, she is forced to admit that she can sense nothing and is told that it's just George's toothbrushing cup. At first she tries to leave, thinking she's being made fun of. However, Lockwood explains that many of the previous applicants had made up all sorts of cock-and-bull stories such that if you believed what they said, it was the most haunted cup in Britain.
  • Shapeshifting: There is a powerful variety of Type Two ghosts capable of changing their form, and not necessarily into other humans.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Red Room from the first book is quite probably a shout-out to the H. G. Wells ghost story by the same name.
    • Lockwood and Kipps share last names with other characters with ghost issues: Mr. Lockwood from Wuthering Heights and Arthur Kipps from The Woman in Black.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Holly Munro might come across as very prim and proper, but she is every bit as competent an agent as anyone else and in battle she can be goddamn terrifying. Do not fuck with Holly Munro.
  • Silver Has Mystic Powers: Like the other series by the same author, The Bartimaeus Trilogy, silver is used in fighting off the supernatural.
  • Skirt Over Leggings: Lucy's usual choice of wear.
  • Slasher Smile: The ghost of Robert Cooke sports an almost permanent one.
  • The Smart Guy: George, of near Insufferable Genius levels.
  • Spot of Tea: Naturally, given the setting. Lockwood & Co. have tea before and even during investigations.
    Lucy: Making tea is a ritual that stops the world from falling in on you.
  • Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl: George declares his hatred for those when the team is at Aldbury Castle. Sure enough, they soon encounter one. Which also has no eyes, for added effect.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Ned Shaw, killed off-page midway through the third book.
  • Sunglasses at Night: Justified. Lockwood sometimes wears sunglasses on cases to shield his eyes from the harsh psychic glow known as other-light.
  • Tempting Fate: Lockwood has a habit of this. "It's Probably Nothing" and "What Could Possibly Go Wrong?" are two examples of this.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Lucy saves Kipps and George from Bickerstaff's ghost by doing this. It turns out that only dumb luck stopped her skewering anyone.
  • Token Evil Teammate: The skull in the jar, insofar as it can be considered a teammate.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Lucy and Holly, respectively.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Holly is stated to be much more confident as a field agent by the fourth book, and when Lockwood and Lucy return from the Other Side to find their teammates battling the Rotwell scientists she's a force to be reckoned with. Beware the Nice Ones, indeed.
  • Treachery Coverup: Even after revealing that Fairfax was responsible for Annabel Ward's death, Lockwood & Co are kept from revealing it publicly.
  • The Trickster: The skull in the jar, who sometimes gives the team useful information... which mostly almost gets them killed.
  • Unfinished Business: A possible reason for the presence of ghosts. Resolving it can be an alternative method of getting rid of them, provided they aren't actively trying to kill you at the time.
  • Urban Legends: Given the setting of the series, most urban legends are true. Part of the investigation process is is researching urban legends of possible hauntings. Combe Carey Hall has plenty of them.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Fairfax, the owner of Fairfax Iron, who, in his youth, killed Annabel Ward.
    • Also Penelope Fittes and Steve Rotwell, who are both involved in various shady conspiracies surrounding the Problem.
  • Violence Detector: Lockwood and others who have his particular seeing Talent see sites of violence as places with particular bright spots of light, known as "death-glows".
  • Whispering Ghosts: Another sign of ghostly activity, but only those with the particular listening Talent, like Lucy, can hear them.
  • Who You Gonna Call?: Lockwood & Co. along with all the other ghosthunting agencies.
  • The Worm That Walks: Wilberforce's ghost is composed of spectral rats (probably those who ate his corpse). As per standard procedure for this trope, it soon becomes The Swarm.

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