by Jonathan Stroud
Hauntings were once rare occurrences, and the specters harmless. You might see a stranger walking through a wall, or hear chains clinking up the stairs, but that was about it. Now, ghosts are appearing with greater frequency, and the malicious spirits can kill with a single touch. The spirits are invisible to adults, so children with psychic abilities have become the ghost hunters, responsible for keeping the world safe from the paranormal. London-based Lockwood & Co. is the only ghost agency run without adult supervision, and its three agents – Lockwood, George and Lucy - are talented. But when an assignment ends up disaster, the trio is faced with massive debts that may shut their organization down. They’re forced to take an exceptionally dangerous job at Combe Carey Hall, one of the most haunted manors in England. If they can succeed in locating the source of the hauntings, they’ll be able to save the agency, but no one has ever successfully survived a night in the haunted house.
Aimed at a younger audience than Stroud’s popular Bartimaeus trilogy, The Screaming Staircase is a delightfully dark story. For some children, it may be too intense; death naturally features prominently in a book about hauntings and spirits and spooks. In this version of London, children are frontline warriors protecting adults from supernatural enemies, and I suspect that some parents will be uncomfortable with this. It really just boils down to knowing your child and what he or she can take in their fiction.
The story is narrated by Lucy Carlyle, the only girl on a three-person team. She’s very mature for her age, but then children must be in a world where must serve and protect as something like a supernatural police force. Her companion George is sarcastic, but his snide remarks balance Lucy’s bouts of moodiness. The aloof leader of the gang, Anthony Lockwood, is a clever junior Sherlock Holmes type. He’s usually two or three steps ahead of his fellow agents. As the business manager, he’s in charge of both the finances and the publicity. Lockwood is a strong leader for the group, but I’m glad that he wasn’t the book’s narrator, because he isn’t nearly as engaging as Lucy.
When I was a kid, I would have loved this book. Heck, as an adult I thought it was a whole lot of fun. The hauntings are pleasantly chilling, and the spooks adequately scary. The kids are a fun group to follow, and I look forward to continuing their adventures in The Whispering Skull, which is due out in September 2014.
5 out of 5 stars
To read more about The Screaming Staircase, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.
Peeking into the archives...today in:
2013: Oregon Shakespeare Festival 2013: My Fair Lady
2012: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
2011: The Second Duchess by Elizabeth Loupas
2010: The Dead Travel Fast by Deanna Raybourn
2009: News: Recession Fuels Demand For Romance Novels