|The Screaming Staircase|
by Jonathan Stroud
"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.
Set in a city stalked by spectres, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humour and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again . . . "
Who ya gonna call? Lockwood & Co.! That is what was going through my mind the whole time I was reading this book. It is like Ghostbusters with children as the main characters. But is has scarier ghosts (no Stay Puft Marshmallow Man here), and ectoplasm that doesn't just slime you, it can kill you. I actually really liked this book. I don't usually read scary ghost stories, and as a middle-schooler this would have scared me to death, (I read Jane-Emily in Jr. High and still get creeped out just thinking about it), as an adult it just made me a little leery of dark, cold places.
The main characters were really likeable and were at times brave, funny, and heart-wrenching. The whole premise of the book is that young children are more receptive to psychic experiences than adults, so when The Problem of hauntings arises, children are used to hunt the ghosts. In talking about her companions when she first entered "the business", main character Lucy says,
"I was close to them. We worked together. We had fun. We saved each other's lives a bit. Their names, if you're interested, were Paul, Norrie, Julie, Steph, and Alfie-Joe. They're all dead now."
There is a lot of talk of the death of children in this book.
I found it kind of strange that there was no mention of a screaming staircase until about the 60% mark of the book. However, there is action a-plenty from page one. If you like a creepy, spine-tingling ghost story, this one's for you!
Areas of concern:
The *d* word was used a handful of times.
The main characters are all children living together without any adult supervision - that is actually a main part of the storyline. I wish that there could have been at least one positive adult figure.
High spookiness factor - not for sensitive readers.
Kirkus Reviews - Ages 11-13
School Library Journal - Grades 6-9