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Literature / Lockwood & Co.

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"When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in..."

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 cause 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 a massive workload, dangerous ghosts and a new employee, the ridiculously efficient Holly Munro.

Lockwood & Co.:

  1. The Screaming Staircase (2013)
  2. The Whispering Skull (2014)
  3. The Hollow Boy (2015)
  4. The Creeping Shadow (2016)
  5. The Empty Grave (September 12, 2017)

On June 7, 2016, Stroud stated in a Facebook chat that the fifth book of the series would be the finale. This has later been confirmed in publisher summary listings for The Empty Grave.

In September 2017, it was announced that Big Talk Productions had acquired the rights to adapt the series for television, with the company heads stating the series would be "a highly original, distinctively authored, ghost-detective show to enthrall audiences of all ages." In 2020, however, it was announced that the show would be a Netflix series by Complete Fiction, a production company created by two former members of Big Talk Productions. As of late 2022, the TV series is planned for a 2023 release for a total of eight episodes, all written and directed by Joe Cornish. More here.


On October 26, 2022, Netflix released an official teaser for the series. The full trailer was released on January 12, and the first season was released on Netflix on January 27, 2023.

Lockwood & Co. contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Lucy, as well as all the other female agents, since they are trained in fighting against ghosts.
  • Actually Not a Vampire: The Creeping Shadow. A towering, half-transparent shadowy form which raises souls from their graves… and is actually a living man in a protective suit.
  • 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. While it's stated in the ending Glossary that some adults retain their talents past puberty, we don't see any other than Penelope/Marissa Fittes, who is useless for other reasons. It's implied that Lucy and possibly Lockwood are strong enough to be among those who keep their powers when they grow up, but the series doesn't last long enough for us to know for sure.
    • Adults being useless also turns out to be true on a deeper level in that it takes the Lockwood & Co. agency, consisting of children with no adult supervisors, to finally solve the overall Problem of ghosts. The other agencies are all so set in their ways of using the standard methods of attacking the ghosts and keeping the Problem at bay on a day-to-day basis that they can't even conceive of doing anything else. And that's not even counting those at the top-levels like Penelope/Marissa Fittes who actually kickstarted the Problem and don't actually want it truly solved because it serves their ends.
  • Alternate Universe: About 50 years prior to the start of the story, ghosts start popping up in the United Kingdom and attacking people, prompting the creation of agencies intended to fight them.
  • Alternate Techline: You have to read carefully to see it, but the technology of this world doesn't seem to have advanced beyond the sixties. In Screaming Staircase, Lucy mentions that her mother 'bought a new and bigger television and dishwasher' to celebrate Lucy making Level 3. But there's no internet or computers, no mobile phones, no VCR's or DVD's or even security cameras. Whether this is because progress became stunted due to nightly terrors and constant vigilance, all scientific research became focused on the Problem and its effects, or it's a side effect of the Problem itself (ghosts are said to be able to interfere with radio waves and electrical signals) is open to interpretation.
  • Badass Longcoat: Lockwood tends to wear long coats, one of which you can see on the cover. Of course, 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 Bad: Marissa Fittes, who is responsible for the problem in the first place, along with her Dragon Ezekiel.
  • 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.
  • Black-Tie Infiltration: In Book 2, the gang gets invited to a grand anniversary party hosted by the Fittes Agency. While they didn't initially plan on it, they decide to take the opportunity to steal a rare historical document while everyone else is busy at the party.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Broken Bird: Flo Bones, after an incident that killed the rest of her agency (well, all two of them, but still) and had her fending for her life throughout an entire night against grotesque ghosts. Lucy and Holly avert this: while also being Sole Survivors of incidents that killed their entire teams, neither are particularly broken and they deal with the trauma on their own terms.
  • 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.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The locket that Lockwood and Lucy find on a skeleton in Mrs. Hope’s house.
    • The goggles stolen from Combe Carey Hall.
    • The spirit capes found at 35 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 of iron to charms and even mobiles for children. Newborn babies are outfitted with iron bracelets at the hospital.
  • Collector of the Strange: Lockwood's parents were this. 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.
  • Creepy Cemetery: Due to the nature of The Problem, pretty much all of them. The government 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.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: When Marissa Fittes and Tom Rotwell first began investigating and Marissa published her theories on the existence of ghosts, nobody took her seriously. The sceptics were soon proven wrong, of course—thanks to Marissa herself kickstarting the Problem.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Lockwood, with more and more of it revealed every book. Technically, the only main characters who do not seem to have some traumatic backstory are George and Kipps (not that we know of, anyway).
  • Dark World: The Other Side as seen in the fourth and fifth books. A dry, frozen and dark reflection of the regular world, populated by dead people who really don't like to be disturbed.
  • Declaration of Protection: Lockwood to Lucy near the end of The Hollow Boy. Lucy is simultaneously touched and horrified by the statement, since it means Lockwood will lay down his life for her if it comes down to it.
  • Deadpan Snarker: All of Lockwood & Co.
    • Including the Skull in a Jar. Perhaps especially the Skull in the jar, as he is actually dead, and manages to make his snark known even though no one can hear him except Lucy.
  • Death of a Child: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Double-Meaning Title:
    • The Hollow Boy refers both to a ghost encountered in the book and to Lockwood’s feeling of inner emptiness following his family’s deaths.
    • The Empty Grave is the Fittes mausoleum and also Lockwood’s yet-to-be-filled grave at his family’s plot.
  • 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.
  • Do You Trust Me?: This is the skull in the jar's repeated inquiry to Lucy in the final book, The Empty Grave. While it takes her a while to get there, the answer is ultimately "yes," as Lucy smashes the jar, allowing the spirit within to go free, and he ultimately proves an aid in taking down Marissa Fittes and her own pet Type Three ghost, Ezekiel.
  • Every Episode Ending: The final chapter of each installment of the series (save the one-off short story The Dagger in the Desk) opens with a newspaper account summarizing the key case of the book. These accounts, however, usually lack key details that have been deemed by the authorities to be too sensitive for public ears, such as iron magnate John Fairfax being the murderer of Annie Ward in The Screaming Staircase, or that the woman the public knows as Penelope Fittes is responsible for the epidemic of ghosts in The Empty Grave. Lucy will usually comment on the injustice of the situation, to which Lockwood will shrug and say it’s for the best. These accounts also provide at least some detail as to Lockwood and Co.'s involvement in the cases, though also usually heavily edited. The lone exception is the fourth book, The Creeping Shadow, in which their involvement is kept entirely secret in an effort to try to protect them, not that it does much good.
  • 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.
    • Marissa Fittes to Lucy. Marissa tries to invoke it, to Lucy's displeasure.
    • Ezekiel to the skull. Well, evil-er, anyway.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Cats avoid areas that ghosts are haunting.
  • Exact Words: In The Hollow Boy, Lockwood tells Lucy that he will always protect her so long as she's with the company. So Lucy tries to exploit this by quitting the company. The following book, The Creeping Shadow, shows it doesn't last long.
  • 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.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: Reverend Skinner in the fourth book. Already adult when the Problem erupted, he'd never seen a ghost and insists that they are an elaborate ruse, or maybe just the wind. In this world, of course, it means he's completely crazy.
  • 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. And, for that matter, they essentially have to live as adults, managing their own affairs when it comes to clothing, housing, food, cleaning, etc.
  • 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.
    • Lucy muses that one of the main dangers of staying in haunted houses is succumbing to the haunting's internal logic, causing you to forget how to act safely. This is a rather meta observation on horror and ghost stories in general.
  • 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 talk to Lucy. In the following books she uses her connection with the thing for information and it ends up becoming a major character.
  • Ghost Invasion: Visitors (ghosts) return and cause all sorts of trouble. As a result, many ghost hunting agencies were set up to deal with the problem.
  • Ghostly Chill: Naturally. A good sign of ghostly activity.
  • Gilligan Cut:
    It’s amazing how quickly a fire can spread in an average suburban house.
    • From The Hollow Boy:
    "Barnes may be grumpy," Lockwood said, "but when I show him your findings, he'll act soon enough. He knows how good we are." He winked at us. "Don't worry. I know we have our differences, but there's a lot of mutual respect there. If he hesitates, I'll sweet-talk him. He won't let us down."
    "That total and utter idiot." Lockwood growled. "That mustachioed imbecile. That benighted, blinkered jobsworth. He's a clown! A fraud! An oaf! I hate him."
    "How's the mutual respect thing going?" George said.
  • Glory Seeker: The skull claims that Lockwood's self-absorption and want of fame makes him this.
  • 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: DEPRAC (Department of Psychical Research and Control) which was established in response to the Problem.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: Lucy complains about this a little when the company is required to sign non-disclosure agreements to hide the Fittes' actions from the public.
  • Green-Eyed Monster:
    • Lucy is extremely jealous of Holly Munro due to her looks, her charisma and especially the attention Lockwood gives her.
    • When she first hears about Flo Bones, Lucy is jealous that Lockwood has a female contact she didn't know about.
  • Gross-Up Close-Up: The ghost in the ghost-jar loves pulling this on people when they take a look at it.
  • Hands-On Approach: Lockwood adjusting Lucy's rapier stance in Book Two. Cue butterflies.
  • Harmful to Minors:
    • All psychical agents are children or teens, and the job is extremely hazardous and scary. Agents falling in the line of duty is almost as commonplace as the Problem itself.
    • Before Lucy came to London, she was involved in the Wythburn Mill Incident, in which all her co-agents were killed by a dangerous Type Two ghost.
    • Lockwood's parents were killed when he was young, with their ghosts being the first he'd ever seen. Then, at the age of nine, he watched his older sister die. Talk about a Trauma Conga Line.
  • 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.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: In ''The Empty Grave, it's revealed that Lockwood's parents developed a theory of what was causing The Problem based on their research. Unfortunately for them, they made the first presentation of their theory to the Orpheus Society, which happened to be controlled by the culprits who arranged an "accident" to silence them.
  • He Is Not My Boyfriend: What Lucy is about to insist in The Hollow Boy when the Skull refers to Lockwood as her boyfriend. She doesn't actually get to finish the sentence, but her denial is just as obvious.
  • 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:
    • No one had any idea that John Fairfax even knew Annie Ward, let alone that he was her lover and murderer until he hired Lockwood & Co. to investigate Combe Carey Hall under ridiculously dangerous conditions. It immediately sends Lockwood investigating Fairfax; furthermore, Fairfax doesn't pack away the memorabilia of his theatrical career before they arrive at the Hall, which includes references to his stage name and photographic proof that he knew Annie. Particularly stupid is the portrait of him playing Hamlet, the source of the quote referenced in Annie's locket. Lucy carries this trope to its logical conclusion when, at the climax of the first book, she releases Annie's ghost from the locket, her Source, which allows her to directly take revenge on Fairfax.
    • Steve Rotwell ends up falling into the giant circle of Sources he created and is presumably killed by the ghosts inside it.
    • At the end of The Creeping Shadow, Penelope/Marissa Fittes shows up at the group's household/office in Portland Row and warns them off of investigating anything other than small problems and most certain anything relating the origin of the Problem of ghosts. She also brings along her bodyguard Rupert Gale and makes an Implied Death Threat. Additionally, she disparages Holly Munro and tells Quill Kipps that for leaving her agency, she's blacklisting him and stripping his pension. Once she leaves, Lockwood's immediately reaction is to call a vote which everyone agrees with to make her the target of their investigations going forward. Furthermore, by showing up at all, she inadvertently reveals her true nature to the group, as the Skull in the jar recognizes that she is actually Marissa Fittes, her supposed grandmother.
  • 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.
  • Immortality Immorality: Marissa and the Orpheus Society seek to defeat death, but only manage to cause more death and suffering along the way.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • It Belongs in a Museum: What Inspector Barnes thinks of the psychic artefacts on display at 35 Portland Row.
  • It's Personal: Lockwood, once he discovers Fittes is responsible for the death of his parents.
  • 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. It's later shown that the bigger agencies use a giant furnace to permanently get rid of sources.
  • Literal Ass-Kicking: How Steve Rotwell ends up in the deadly spirit portal, courtesy of Lucy.
  • Lethally Stupid: Anthony Lockwood has shades of this, as he will often leap unprepared into dangerous situations, much to George's chagrin. For example, when he pushed his employees to explore Combe Carey Hall with him under ridiculously unfavourable circumstances.
  • Locked into Strangeness: People who have been to the Other Side tend to develop white flecks in their hair.
  • 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.
  • Make an Example of Them:
    • At the end of the fourth book, Fittes does this to Quill Kipps by ostracising him from her company and destroying his reputation, all for helping out Lockwood & Co. one too many times.
    • In the fifth book, George is beaten half to death by unknown assailants as a final warning for Lockwood & Co. to stop investigating Marissa Fittes.
  • Mathematician's Answer: In The Empty Grave, members of the smaller ghost-hunting agencies are required to carry papers saying who they are and explaining what case they're on, something which they all find odious and ridiculous, but have to put up with for the time being. At one point, the members of Lockwood and Co are cornered by Rupert Gale and his minions. Gale asks if they could show the papers to him and Holly Munro replies "I could. It would certainly be possible."
  • Maybe Ever After: After five books of skirting around their feelings, the series ends with Lockwood and Lucy sharing a quiet moment in her room. He then leaves her a priceless necklace his father had given his mother as a “symbol of undying devotion”, and the two head out for a walk. Where things go from there is left to the reader’s imagination.
  • Master Swordsman: Lockwood. All agents carry rapiers, but he's actually good with it.
    • Turns out the one person who managed to beat Lockwood in a swordplay tournament was Flo Bones. At the end of the fifth book, she easily disarms a desperate sword-wielding thug with a slime flange.
  • 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.
  • Mistaken for Servant: In The Screaming Staircase, when John Fairfax pairs a visit to Lockwood and Co ghost-hunting agency, Lockwood asks for some tea and Fairfax, seeing George, agrees to it, saying to tell "your boy" to bring the sugar too. Lockwood plays along at it at first, but when George gets back and doesn't leave, Faifax tells Lockwood that his "office help" should wait outside. Lockwood then explains that George (who is rather overweight and slovenly) is not, in fact, "office help," but rather an agent.
  • Moment Killer: Happens in The Empty Grave when Lockwood shows Lucy a necklace his father had given his mother as a gift of love. Since they’re about to head into danger and it might be his last chance, he seems just about to give it to her… when Quill Kipps shows up to let them know their enemies have arrived. Lucy does receive the necklace at the very end, though it seems Lockwood had lost the nerve to give it to her in person at that point.
  • 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.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Casual murder seems to be the Whispering Skull's standard go-to suggestion for any sort of problem.
    Skull: Here's my tip: lure her down to Kitchenware and brain her with a skillet. ... Holly. It's a golden opportunity. There are lots of pointy things there too, if you prefer. But basically a simple smack with a rolling pin would do fine.
  • My Grandson, Myself: Turns out Marissa Fittes did a Grand Theft Me on her granddaughter, Penelope, and has been living her life ever since.
  • Mysterious Mist: A side-effect of a ghostly manifestation, described as being white-green in color. It's common enough to warrant the specific term ghost fog.
  • Name Amnesia: In The Empty Grave, Lucy has built rapport with the skull in the jar to such a degree that she tries once again asking him for his name. He claims, however, that it's been so long since he died that he just doesn't remember.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: The characters (especially the Skull) swear frequently, but Lucy's narration always just describes it as "[character] swore" or, often, notes that she's learned some new terms.
  • Navel-Deep Neckline: At the dinner party, Lucy mentions that revealing necklines became extremely popular with the emergence of the Problem. They also make George clean his glasses quite carefully, apparently.
  • The Nondescript: Johnson in The Creeping Shadow. He is described as having a curiously vague appearance such that even as Lucy looked at him, the details slipped away from her. He has nondescript brown hair and a bland, slightly shapeless face, and no distinguishing features that would pick him out in a crowd.
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever happened in Mrs. Barrett's tomb.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Lucy and Lockwood's strategy for infiltrating Winkman's shop in ‘The Whispering Skull’, complete with tacky tourist disguises. It works—until their calloused hands from years of swordplay give them away as agents.
  • Occult Detective: Whole agencies of them, of which Lockwood & Co. is one.
  • Offing the Offspring: Marissa to both her granddaughter Penelope and presumably her daughter Margaret.
  • 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. This turns out to be the result of Marissa taking over the real Penelope's body.
  • 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. Marissa Fittes, the legendary founder of the Fittes Agency was also said to be able to talk to them. This later turns out to be true and she has one, Ezekiel, as a trusted confidante and companion. In fact, she technically is one, possessing the body of her granddaughter, Penelope Fittes and passing herself off as Penelope.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Fairfax naturally assumes Lucy is the weak link of the team, too sensitive to be any kind of threat. Lucy is understandably pissed off.
  • Power Trio: Lockwood, Lucy and George.
  • Prophecy Twist: In The Empty Grave, a fortune telling machine informs Lucy that "he will go into the dark" and "he will sacrifice his life for you". Lucy fears this means Lockwood is going to try and save her at the cost of his own life. The fortune didn't specify who "he" was; while the first part was probably about Lockwood going into the Other Side (with the rest of the team), the second part apparently referred to the skull.
  • Put Off Their Food:
    • Amusingly subverted at the end of the first book, when Lockwood announces that "a limbless man has been seen shuffling across the bathroom floor on his bloody stumps." Lucy then helps herself to a sausage roll and says that sounds promising. Agents aren't easily upset.
    • On the flip-side, George is put off his cake at the end of the third book when Lucy declares she's quitting Lockwood & Co.
    • Flo Bones sometimes has this effect on people.
    Flo: I keep myself informed. I like to read the papers, before I wipe myself with 'em.
    I paused with a forkful of kipper half-way to my mouth. Lockwood's toast visibly wilted in his hand.
  • Put on a Bus: Kate Godwin and Bobby Vernon following The Hollow Boy.
  • 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 BSoD-inducing terror.
  • Rain of Blood: The manifestation of one particularly creepy Visitor in Combe Carey Hall. Also the reason why the Red Room is called that.
  • Ransacked Room: In The Creeping Shadow, after thieves ransack Lucy's one-room apartment and steal the skull, Holly goes to take some of Lucy's things and returns with the sad news that the intruders left a terrible mess. Lucy refrains from explaining that this is what her room usually looks like.
  • 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. Barnes also repeatedly tries to protect Lockwood and Co., warning them off meddling in affairs that might get them killed. At the end of the series, he quickly helps to restore order after Fittes’ downfall and promises to start working on solving the Problem.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: George delivers a pretty devastating one to Sir Rupert Gale in The Empty Grave.
  • Red Herring: A challenge in many ghost investigations is separating fact from fiction when it comes to local folklore surrounding the ghost, since good understanding of a haunting is often the key to vanquishing it. Particularly evident in Combe Carey Hall, where the team both hears a misleading story about a mad nobleman which had nothing to do with the actual source of the haunting and are shown the wrong Screaming Staircase.
    • Also in Aldbury Castle, where the medieval carving of the Creeping Shadow gathering souls turns out to be a complete coincidence.
    • In book one, the group is led to believe Hugo Blake was responsible for the murder of Annie Ward. When this turns out to be false, Lockwood outright calls Blake a red herring.
  • 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.
  • Rewatch Bonus:
    • Once you learn what happened to Lockwood's sister, you'll see the many hints made towards it throughout the preceeding books, most notably his dumbstruck reaction to Lucy willfully freeing Annie Ward's ghost inside the house.
    • In The Creeping Shadow, Penelope Fittes promises to make Lockwood & Co. "immortal" if they agree to team up with her. This choice of words takes on a new meaning with the ending in mind.
  • Rescue Hug:
    • How Lockwood saves a hypnotized Lucy from jumping into a well in The Screaming Staircase.
    • When Lockwood and Lucy are walking through the Other Side in The Creeping Shadow, Lucy's protective cape is lost. Lockwood immediately pulls her into his arms, wrapping his cape around them both. They have to stay close and share the cape for the rest of the scene.
  • 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 Stab Wound: Kipps is severely wounded moments before jumping into the portal to the Other Side. Due to the nature of the place, he almost doesn't notice until Lucy catches a glimpse of the wound and realizes how bad it really is.
  • 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.
  • Shame If Something Happened: At the end of the fourth book, Penelope/Marissa Fittes pays Lockwood & Co. a visit to not-so-subtly order them to keep out of her business. When all her sinister offers have been refused, she offhandedly comments on how nice the house on Portland Row is... and how vulnerable.
  • Shapeshifting: There is a powerful variety of Type Two ghosts capable of changing their form, and not necessarily into other humans.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Lockwood is always impeccably dressed in his tight-fitting suits, dress shoes and long coats and will go to great lengths to preserve his professional look. If he’s ever anything less than stylish—for a disguise or when he’s been roughed up during a case—it is always commented on. Doesn’t quite veer into The Dandy territory, but fashion is important to Lockwood’s self-perception and obsession with image.
  • Ship Tease:
    • There are plenty of sweet moments between Lucy and Lockwood. Just try to count all the times Lucy goes out of her way to describe how good Lockwood looks, how flustered his compliments make her or how naturally inspiring he is. The Skull in particular enjoys teasing her about it, and George and Holly have commented on it too. Unfortunately, Lucy and Lockwood are not great at talking about their feelings. In the final book, it's all but confirmed that they truly love each other.
    • George and Flo Bones get a bit, though it's played for laughs. Not so much in the last book, where things seem to become more serious between them.
  • 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.
  • Slasher Smile: The ghost of Robert Cooke sports an almost permanent one.
  • 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.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: In The Hollow Boy, Lucy volunteers to accompany George on his research for the first time ever because her other choice is spending time with Lockwood & Co.'s new secretary, Holly Munro, whom she can't stand. At one point, George says that he knows why she's coming along, and that she needs to be careful because "Lockwood isn't pleased." Lucy says that she doesn't think Lockwood has any right to object, seeing as she didn't ask for this, and George replies that Lockwood didn't either, to which Lucy shoots back "He hired her." George is puzzled for a moment, then says that what he's talking about is her fascination with the ghost on the particular case they're working on, and asks what she was talking about. At this, she replies "Oh, yes. Yes, the same. That's why I'm here with you. I want to know the story."
  • Tagline: "Hauntings are our business..." for the later British printings.
  • Taking You with Me: At the end of the big final battle in The Empty Grave, Marissa Fittes decides that if she's going to die, then Lucy and Lockwood are coming with her and activates a time-bomb to effect this. Lockwood tries to sacrifice himself to save Lucy, but she won't allow it, and ultimately the freed ghost of the skull from the jar ends up containing the blast and saving them both.
  • Team Pet: strangely enough, the Skull in the Jar actually qualifies (at least according to the description on the trope page).
  • Tempting Fate: Lockwood has a habit of this. "It's Probably Nothing" and "What Could Possibly Go Wrong?" are two examples of this.
  • This Is Not That Trope: The Hollow Boy opens In Medias Res in the middle of a case, with Lucy talking about a moment when she glimpsed Lockwood and Co. working together perfectly the first time. She then backs things up a bit to the beginning of the case. As things progress, it comes to a tense moment, where she is tossing a water bottle to Lockwood and George is tossing her his rapier. Lucy reminds the reader of how she talked about a moment of sweet precision, when they gelled together perfectly as a team.
    Lucy: Remember I said there was that moment of sweet precision, when we jelled perfectly as a team? Yeah, well, this wasn't it. The rapier shot past, missing me by miles. It skidded halfway across the floor. The bottle struck Lockwood right in the center of his forehead, knocking him out the window. There was a moment's pause. "Is he dead?" the skull's voice said. "Yay! Oh. No, he's hanging on to the shutters. Shame. Still, this is definitely the funniest thing I've ever seen. You three really are incompetence on a stick."
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works
    • Lucy saves Joplin and George from Bickerstaff's ghost by doing this. It turns out that only dumb luck stopped her skewering anyone.
    • Lockwood employs this offensively against one of the attackers at the parade in The Hollow Boy.
  • Token Evil Teammate: The skull in the jar, insofar as it can be considered a teammate.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Lucy and Holly, respectively.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Flo’s is liquorice.
  • Treachery Cover-Up: Even after revealing that Fairfax was responsible for Annabel Ward's death, Lockwood & Co are kept from revealing it publicly.
  • True Companions: They may bicker, but the members of Lockwood & Co. are always there for each other. Lucy calls her friends this verbatim in The Creeping Shadow.
  • 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. It's theorized among some that this is the main reason there are ghosts at all. Beginning in The Hollow Boy, Lucy, with her special talents, experiments with discovering it, but it's dangerous.
  • Uriah Gambit: A variation. This is what John Fairfax tries to pull on Lockwood & Co. when he hires them to investigate Combe Carey Hall under ridiculously disadvantageous conditions. After the newspaper article claiming that Lucy has a psychic connection with the ghost of Annie Ward, Fairfax hires them to investigate the Hall, purposely setting them up to die for knowing too much. But he is so eager and unsubtle that alarm bells immediately start ringing for Lockwood, as he explains later.
  • 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. Some, however, are complete coincidences that just happen to match up with the facts, such as the carving of the Creeping Shadow in Aldbury Castle.
  • Vagueness Is Coming: The first things that the whispering skull tells Lucy is that "death is coming" and that "death is in life and life is in death." Both do have actual meaning and the latter becomes particularly meaningful in light of the revelations of the final two books of the series. Both, however, are so irritatingly vague at the time that Lucy's immediate reaction is to close herself off from communication from the skull and leave it be for time being, despite the fact it's the first known instance of anyone communicating with a type III ghost since Marissa Fittes.
  • The Vamp: La Belle Dame Sans Merci, both in life and (more literally) in death.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: A shared characteristic among many villains in the series, forcing Lockwood & Co. to tread carefully while uncovering shady activities among the higher-ups of London.
    • John 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.
    • Ultimately Marissa Fittes, celebrated as a national heroine and the first to effectively fight the Problem, while in reality she kick-started it herself.
  • 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".
  • We Can Rule Together: Penelope/Marissa tries to pull this off on Lucy.
  • 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.
  • Worth Living For: Lucy is implied to have become this for Death Seeker Lockwood by the end of the series.
  • You Are Fat: The Skull in the Jar is the first known example in recent times of a Type III ghost, one that can communicate with the living. However, it speaks only with Lucy, leaving her to share its insights with Lockwood and George, which at least at first, turn out to be searing, but not exactly insightful when it comes to the mysteries of the dead. As Lucy explains to George...
    Lucy: It said you were fat.
    George: What?
    Lucy: It talked about us, basically. It watches us and knows our names. It said—
    George: It said I was fat.
    Lucy: Yeah, but—
    George: Fat? Fat? What kind of otherworldly communication is that?
  • You Must Be Cold: Lockwood to Lucy near the end of The Hollow Boy.
  • Your Heart's Desire: In The Whispering Skull, those who are ensnared by a glimpse of the bone-glass hear a ghostly, whispering, wheedling voice urging them "Look. Look. I give you your heart's desire." Those who actually do look into it directly, either by their own choice or because they are forced to, die no more than a minute after.