Review: The Screaming Staircase

October 11, 2013 book review 8 ★★★★½

I received this book for free from Disney-Hyperion in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Screaming StaircaseThe Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud
Published by Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: September 17, 2013
Pages: 400
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Horror & Ghost Stories, Mysteries & Detective Stories, Young Adult


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 . . .

THE SCREAMING STAIRCASE by Jonathan Stroud is pitched as a middle grade book. Please, do not let that deter you from reading this book. I can tell you truthfully 100% that you would never even know this was MG if you hadn’t seen it listed that way. THE SCREAMING STAIRCASE is such an  unbelievably smart and well-worded novel. The three members of the Lockwood & Co. agency act well beyond their years.

Lucy, our main character, along with Lockwood and George are three of the most talented people in London. They can sense, hear, and see ghosts that people over the age of 15 barely notice. They are a small agency that has been mostly dealing with non-life threatening Visitors but they are definitely a force to be reckoned with. Lucy has a heightened sense of hearing and can notice the slightest noise made by a Visitor. She also has a magnificent ability to touch objects, or Sources as they are called, and can tell you who they belong to, how they were in real life, and sometimes even what made them die. Lockwood is the head of operations, a bit arrogant, and can see even the minutest glow forming from a Visitor. George is sort of the brains of the operations. He’s a wordy fellow who can hunt down information for any sort of case they are about to go on. He’s your go-to guy when you need to know about what happened in the past. They all have completely different personalities–Lucy and George butt heads all the time–but together they make an even better team than the top agencies in the country.

I only really had one problem with THE SCREAMING STAIRCASE and it had absolutely nothing to do with the plot, characters, or the like. It actually was the way the book was structured at the beginning. We start off immediately on a call with Lucy and Lockwood. A lady believes her deceased husband is haunting her house. The pair find the Visitor and battle to tame and take it down. This was all fine and dandy and I loved how there was action right off the bat. I was completely absorbed and was dying to know what would happen next. It was intense and thrilling. After this Problem was resolved, the next chapter we are back in the past before Lucy became to work at Lockwood & Co. This was about 15% through, so a good chunk we had been in the present. This is when the pace dramatically slowed down. Lucy is much younger and describing how she got started in the business at a young age. We go through the motions of her learning how to hone in on her skills, what life was like under her previous employer, significant cases she worked with him, and eventually, how she landed the job at Lockwood & Co. This section, like I said had a much slower plot, not much dialogue, and was filled with lots of very descriptive paragraphs. I was loving the fast paced action at the beginning and now at this point, I started to lose interest. And while I realize that it’s important to know how and why Lucy ended up at Lockwood & Co, I wish this information had been at the beginning of the story. If we started the book off in the past leading up to her new job and then on to the call at the Hope house, it would’ve made more sense and not have disrupted the flow of the book. Luckily though, we did end up back in the present and the high intensity action continued.

After that first case at the beginning of the book, the reader nor the group were prepared for the turn of events that would take place. They are specifically requested to come take a look at the most haunted manor in England. The creepiness and uneasiness I felt reading about this place was probably nothing compared to that of actually being inside it. Stroud is a magnificent writer who made this place truly come to life. It was described in such a way that I felt like I was actually there. I was on my toes and completely engrossed in the book. I wouldn’t have noticed an air horn going off beside me I was so absorbed. THE SCREAMING STAIRCASE was page-turning, exciting, witty, thrilling, and terrifying all in one prettily bound book.

This brings me back to wanting to make it very clear that this novel is definitely upper MG, and YA fans will absolutely love it. You’ll probably devour it, honestly. The writing was smart and descriptive, the language much more mature than that of the middle grade crowd. The characters were terribly intuitive, scholarly, self-sufficient, and more brave than I ever hope I could be. Paranormal and suspense fans will love this book. The adventure Lucy, Lockwood, and George went on was so much fun–and nerve-racking!–that I can’t wait to see what big client they get in the next book. THE SCREAMING STAIRCASE is a fantastic start to a new series that I know will only get better and better.

4.5 Thought Clouds
I received a finished review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!


8 Responses to “Review: The Screaming Staircase”

    • Christine P

      Oh I’m so glad this was able to help you! I love hearing this 🙂 And thank you!! I was on the fence about them for a long time after I made them so it’s great to hear you like them 😀

  1. Natalie Natflixandbooks

    This sounds pretty awesome. I debated ordering it from the library, but I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed by my TBR at the moment. I love it when books start in the middle of the action, but you make a good point that any exposition that comes later will feel drastically slower if it does. Great review! I’ll definitely check this out sometime soon.

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