The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

(9.1/10)

Book of the Year 2013 (see all)

I hold The Bartimaeus Trilogy and stand-alone novel Heroes of the Valley to be amongst the finest fantasy books I have read. So when a new book from their author Jonathan Stroud arrives my expectations are very high. And I was not disappointed as Lockwood & Co - which is aimed at a slightly older audience than previous novels - proved to be another wonderfully entertaining read.

The titular Lockwood & Co. are a Psychic Investigations Agency. You see, for the past fifty years the dead have been coming back to haunt the living and when they do agencies like Lockwood & Co. are called in to destroy these dangerous apparitions. But it is only kids and teenagers that are able see and do battle with these ghosts so each agency is made up of a young workforce overseen by an adult. But there is no adult overseer to be found at the rather ramshackle agency run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood and when young Lucy Carlyle arrives in London hoping for a notable career she finds herself immediately embarking on her first case. But the case goes horribly wrong and the agency is left with one last chance to redeem itself. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive…

The most enjoyable fantasy books always supply the reader with a healthy dose of wish-fulfilment. I think this was key to the success of the Harry Potter books and the Narnia Chronicles before that and one the greatest strengths of Lockwood & Co. is that readers will wish they could live inside the book - after all, what teenager would not want to live in a massive old house, looking after themselves with no adults to order them around? And then at night they get to strap on a rapier and go out to battle the unsettled dead… Who wouldn't get a little bit excited about the prospect of being a full-time ghost-hunter? In Stroud's world it is the kids that hold the power, not the adults.

Another winning ingredient is the humour - not too much, not too little. This is where Stroud is at his very best, the humour in his books is always perfectly in balance with the storyline, never inappropriate and most impressively, consistently amusing, be it wry, cynical, silly or sarcastic. As this book is aimed at a slightly older audience than was the case for the Bartimaeus books it is much darker in theme and tone but the humour is still there, less frequent admittedly but no less funny.

The story is told through the first person narrative of Lucy Carlyle and through accounts of her adventures she manages to instil a continuous sense of tension that reminded me how I felt when I first read the excellent Spook's Apprentice by Joseph Delaney. In fact both books have much in common and any that have read and loved the Spooks books will be delighted with what they find here. This is only the first book in a series and I'm hoping that the interesting questions raised in it will be explored in the books to come: Why did these ghosts first appear 50 years ago? And why can only youngsters see them? I'm looking forward to seeing what will future will hold for our intrepid trio.

I recommended this book very highly - it is ideal for fans of Jonathan Stroud’s existing work and also those who have enjoyed Joseph Delaney’s Spooks series.

Release date: 29 Aug 2013

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1 positive reader review(s) for The Screaming Staircase

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All reviews for Jonathan Stroud's Lockwood & Co series

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 nu [...]

Series: Lockwood & Co #1
Published: 2013

Score: 92

Our rating: 9.1 | positive reader reviews

12+

The Whispering Skull

by Jonathan Stroud

Life is never exactly peaceful for Lockwood & Co. Lucy and George are trying to solve the mystery of the talking skull trapped in their ghost jar, while Lockwood is des [...]

Series: Lockwood & Co #2
Published: 2014

Score: 91

Our rating: 9.1 | positive reader reviews

12+

The Hollow Boy

by Jonathan Stroud

Lockwood & Co. might be the smallest (some might say shambolic) Psychic Detection Agency in London. But its three agents - Lockwood, Lucy and George - are exceptional T [...]

Series: Lockwood & Co #3
Published: 2015

Score: 100

Our rating: 10.0 | positive reader reviews

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The Creeping Shadow

by Jonathan Stroud

Lucy has left Lockwood & Co. A freelance operative, she is hiring herself out to other agencies – agencies that might value her ever-improving skills. But now Loc [...]

Series: Lockwood & Co #4
Published: 2016

Score: 97

Our rating: 9.5 | positive reader reviews

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More Jonathan Stroud reviews

Heroes of the Valley

by Jonathan Stroud

Listen then, and I'll tell you again of the Battle of the Rock. But none of your usual wriggling, or I'll stop before I've begun... Halli loves the old stories [...]

Series: NA
Published: 2009

Score: 97

Our rating: 9.4 | 5 positive reader reviews

9+

The Amulet of Samarkand: A Bartimaeus graphic novel

by Jonathan Stroud

Nathaniel, a young magician’s apprentice, has revenge on his mind. Desperate to defy his master and take on more challenging spells, he secretly summons the 5,000-yea [...]

Series: NA
Published: 2011

Score: 90

Our rating: 9.0 | 0 positive reader reviews

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The Ghost of Shadow Vale

by Jonathan Stroud

Glam killed the monster of Shadow Vale-but he also died in the fight. Now Glam's ghost has come back and he's worse than the monster ever was... Barrington Stoke sp [...]

Series: NA
Published: 2009

Score: 90

Our rating: 9.0 | 0 positive reader reviews

9+

The Ring of Solomon

by Jonathan Stroud

The year is 950 BC and the self-proclaimed master djinni Bartimaeus is to be found causing chaos whilst serving at the court of King Solomon in Jerusalem. But with the arri [...]

Series: The Bartimaeus Trilogy: Book 0
Published: 2010

Score: 96

Our rating: 9.5 | 1 positive reader reviews

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The Amulet of Samarkand

by Jonathan Stroud

When the 5,000-year-old djinni Bartimaeus is summoned by Nathaniel, a young magician's apprentice, he expects to have to do nothing more taxing than a little levitation [...]

Series: The Bartimaeus Trilogy: Book 1
Published: 2003

Score: 101

Our rating: 9.5 | 6 positive reader reviews

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The Screaming Staircase reader reviews

from Scotland

I loved this book. I found it as good as - if not even better than - Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus books (and they were great). The author once again showcases his ability to inject humour into the story while also a goodly amount of suspense. It is genuinely creepy in parts. I would highly recommend The Screaming Staircase and all Jonathan Stroud books to readers aged 10 and up.

from Canada

This book hooked me right away. Filled with stunning writing, wonderfully chilling case and lovable and intriguing character,I could not recommend it more. I like to put it as"even a scene as inocent as drinking tea in the library can give you the chills. The screaming staircase is a rousing tale with so much food for thought.

9.7/10 from 3 reviews

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