Publisher: Doubleday Children's.
Hardcover, 440 pages.
Release date: August 29th 2012.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.
Reviewed by: Liz from Planet Print.
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 . . .
Having trouble with Visitors? Lockwood & Co. is here to help. Young Anthony Lockwood and his employees, Lucy and George, are well-equipped to deal with any troublesome hauntings and ghostly goings-on. However, when a particular nasty case leaves Lockwood & Co. in debt to a client, they are forced to accept an even more difficult and terrifying case to pay it off. Can they solve a decades old murder and take on a house full of dangerous Visitors to save Lockwood & Co, and the home they all share?
As a fan of Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus trilogy, I was really looking forward to starting The Screaming Staircase, and I can safely say that it did not disappoint. While the Bartimaeus trilogy will always remain a series incomparable to most (I still miss old Barty!), The Screaming Staircase was such a fun and enjoyable book with a great cast of characters and a lot of witty dialogue. Lucy, our narrator, was an intelligent young teen who had joined Lockwood & Co. as a junior field operative. Her Talent was the ability to hear ghosts (also called Visitors) much more clearly than others, and she was particularly Sensitive to them and the emotions they experienced while they were alive. I really liked Lucy, she had a good sense of humour and was always up for a challenge, though she was nowhere near as reckless as Lockwood, who often charged in without thinking. She also hated being thought of as the "weak link" of the group and had to handle people looking down on her, but I think she dealt with it quite well overall. Her Talent was also quite fascinating as she was able to collect detailed information from Visitors that helped in investigations.
Lockwood was a character that you just had to like. He was funny and good-natured and though he was impetuous, he was actually very clever and could come up with theories quickly and improvise to build on them. He clearly cared a lot about George and Lucy too, and didn't like it when people judged them all for being "too young" to be ghost-hunting. George was sort of Lockwood's opposite; he liked to do thorough research before setting out, he said whatever he thought, even if it was rude, and while he and Lockwood got along, George and Lucy had a bit of more strained relationship, though I think they both respected each other. George however was a vital part of a team and without his research, they probably wouldn't get much done!
Plot-wise, I really liked reading about the way everyone dealt with the Visitors - they hated iron, so carrying iron filings and chains was essential. There were also weapons made from Greek Fire which were very cool, and the scenes where ghost-fighting occurred were some of the best ones. The mystery was engaging and I was very intrigued to find out how a certain ghost died. To be honest, some things were a little predictable and I wasn't surprised to find out who the culprit was, but it was enjoyable all the same. I also loved the scene involving the actual "screaming staircase" and that was probably one of my favourite parts of the book. My only complaints would be that the characters acted and spoke a lot older than their age, and the setting didn't seem modern day - even though there were TVs and cars and bank wiring, it seemed more Victorian era/early 1900s to me. I would have liked to have known more about how Visitors became so prevalent as well, but I'm sure there'll be more explanation in future books.
Overall, The Screaming Staircase was a fab new start to what is looking like another great series by Jonathan Stroud. I'll definitely be continuing the series, and I recommend this to anyone who likes ghost stories with a lot of humour and mystery.