Excellent middle-grade fiction which delivers genuine chills. 4/5.
The blurb: 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…
Firstly, thank you to Lilyn at Sci-Fi & Scary for recommending this book. It was her review which convinced me to add it to my TBR and I’m delighted I did.
The Screaming Staircase is another book which backs up my belief that if a writer get their characters right then they can’t go far wrong elsewhere. Handled badly, the kids of Lockwood & Co. could have come across as foolhardy, smug and annoying. Thankfully, Stroud knows what he’s doing: the main characters are all adorable and you can’t help but warm to them quickly. This meant the parts of the story where the stakes were high were truly frightening because I cared whether the heroes lived or died. I worried even though I knew this was the first book in a series, making it highly likely they’d all survive!
Fans of mysteries, ghost stories and junior sleuths will enjoy this immensely. That said, I would advise again letting very young children read this because the scary bits are properly scary (blood dripping from ceiling scary, for example). That said, it didn’t give me nightmares, and just about anything can do that, so it’s obviously not that bad.
I was confused about the time period the story is supposed to be set in. From the way people speak and the fact everyone’s carrying rapiers, it feels almost Victorian. But then everyone has televisions and things are markedly modern day which suggests this is set in an alternative present… It’s all a bit odd.
I managed to unpack the “whodunnit” element of the mystery half way through the book, which drained some of the tension from subsequent events and robbed me of the big reveal, but it’s a testament to the book’s strengths that I found it thoroughly entertaining nonetheless.
I look forward to reading the next books in the Lockwood & Co. series.
Overall: a great ghost story helmed by a group of likeable junior investigators. Give this a try – you won’t be sorry!
Claire Huston / Art and Soul