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The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud – review
Hauntings are our business . . .
Ghosts crowd the streets and houses of London. Anthony Lockwood, with his slightly grumpy deputy George, and his junior field operative Lucy, make up LOCKWOOD & CO, the small, shabby yet talented ghost-hunting agency.
After a series of calamitous investigations into the supernatural go awry, the team are desperate to prove themselves. Their opportunity comes in the form of a terrifying ghost, the Red Duke. But little do they know what perils lie in store for them at the haunted Bliss Hall . . .
What I expected: I expected this to be a contemporary middle-grade story about several kids who play at hunting ghosts and end up finding a real one that they have to deal with.
What I got: I got a non-contemporary middle-grade urban fantasy with real ghosts and mechanisms to combat them. I got a story about a world where children are trained and hired as ghost hunters because after a certain age your sensitivity goes away, and you are less likely to be able to get rid of your own ghosts.
What I liked: I liked the characters and the worldbuilding. I liked that the different mysteries they get involved in solving are convoluted, realistic and not straightforward. I loved the ghost story aspects and the underlying mystery behind a couple of the characters – more to find out in later books. I also enjoyed that while much of the subject matter was dark (murders and mindless soul-eating spirits), the overall atmosphere was one of hope, and it had a decently reasonable ending that was not your general “happily ever after.”
What I did not: I found the premise to be a little shaky considering children as business owners, but with this type of story, that is not unexpected so was not a big drawback for me.
Cover Talk: I do like this cover – it shows the dark and scary portion of the story and the main characters up to their necks in a ghost mystery. It also has a lovely shade of blue as the brightest portion and is very eye-catching and interesting to look at. I have no doubt that this is a cover that will attract readers.
Recommendation: I recommend this to middle-grade readers of all ages and especially to anyone who enjoys reading about ghosts.