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Lockwood & Co. #1

The Screaming Staircase

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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 . . .

440 pages, Hardcover

First published August 29, 2013

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About the author

Jonathan Stroud

53 books9,349 followers
Jonathan Anthony Stroud is an author of fantasy books, mainly for children and youths.

Stroud grew up in St Albans where he enjoyed reading books, drawing pictures, and writing stories. Between the ages seven and nine he was often ill, so he spent most of his days in the hospital or in his bed at home. To escape boredom he would occupy himself with books and stories. After he completed his studies of English literature at the University of York, he worked in London as an editor for the Walker Books store. He worked with different types of books there and this soon led to the writing of his own books. During the 1990s, he started publishing his own works and quickly gained success.

In May 1999, Stroud published his first children's novel, Buried Fire, which was the first of a line of fantasy/mythology children's books.

Among his most prominent works are the bestselling Bartimaeus Trilogy. A special feature of these novels compared to others of their genre is that Stroud examines the stereotypes and ethics of the magician class and the enslaved demons. This is done by examining the perspective of the sarcastic and slightly egomaniacal djinni Bartimaeus. The books in this series are The Amulet of Samarkand, The Golem's Eye, and Ptolemy's Gate, his first books to be published in the United States.

Stroud lives in St Albans, Hertfordshire, with his two children, Isabelle and Arthur, and his wife Gina, an illustrator of children's books.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 6,750 reviews
Profile Image for Rick Riordan.
Author 498 books402k followers
December 4, 2013
My YA recommendation of the month -- which is not really fair since I read the ARC and it doesn't come out until September -- is Jonathan Stroud's Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase. You may be familiar with Stroud's earlier series about the genie Bartimaeus, and like Bartimaeus, Lockwood & Co. offers us an alternate modern England -- a brilliantly rendered world in which "the Problem" has inexplicably caused ghosts to run rampant and disrupt the lives of mortals. In this new reality, private agencies have arisen to combat the supernatural, and they rely on children as their operatives, since only their senses are keen enough to detect and combat ghosts. After a horrible accident in her home village, Lucy Carlyle flees to London where she joins a small struggling agency, Lockwood & Co., headed by the young and dashing (possibly too reckless) Anthony Lockwood. Soon they are embroiled in a mystery that may cost them their agency and even their lives. Ancient evil, unsolved murders, powerful ghosts and nefarious mortals -- this story will keep you reading late into the night, but you'll want to leave the lights on. Stroud is a genius at inventing an utterly believable world which is very much like ours, but so creepily different. Put The Screaming Staircase on your 'need to read' list when it comes out in September!
757 reviews2,346 followers
November 9, 2017
This series is my Harry Potter. And I love it so much, forever rereading till I die.

Anyways, review to come and feel free to visit the dumpster to scream about this book with me because I'M TRASH FOR LOCKWOOD AND CO.

I swear my hand slipped.
Profile Image for Virginia Ronan ♥ Herondale ♥.
531 reviews34.5k followers
March 10, 2021
”Oh, quit complaining. You got naked with a ghost –“

Well, if this sentence didn’t capture your immediate attention then I really don’t know! ;-P
It’s one of the many good examples of the amazing humour in this book and I have to admit that this was one of the first things that got me hooked on “Lockwood & Co.”.

The second thing that got me more than just a little curious was the amazing world building though. I just loved the idea of a world that is haunted by ghosts and is in dire need of professional agencies that get rid of those “Visitors”. I think that’s quite a unique way to introduce a story and the fact that those mentioned professional agents are actually children certainly made everything even more interesting. In this world children are the only ones who are sensitive enough to see, hear or feel a ghosts presence and so the exceptionally gifted are hired as soon as their abilities show.

”George can do a bit of that,” the boy said. “Not me. I’m tone-deaf when it comes to Visitors. Sight’s my thing. Death-glows and trails, and all the ghoulish residues of death …” He grinned. “Cheerful subject, isn’t it?”

Of course Lockwood, Lucy and George are three of those children, even though they already seem to be around 15 or 16 when the book begins. As it seems they started at a young age and will be able to do their job as long as they are no adults. The details are kind of vague here but I hope this will be explained a little more in the following books. XD (Don’t disappoint me, Stroud! *lol*)

And if we’re already speaking of the characters: I loved them all!!! Lucy is such an awesome protagonist and you just can’t help but got to love her for her almost reckless badassery! Haha! Yeah, I think that describes her pretty well. XD As for Lockwood? He kind of reminded me of a younger and more cheerful version of Kaz Brekker! *lol* Which is pretty awesome because I love characters that have a brilliant mind! =)) But oh boy, George was so much fun as well!!!

”Take his appearance. There was something about it that acted as a trigger to one’s worst instincts. His face was uniquely slappable – a nun would have ached to punch him – while his backside cried out to heaven for a well-placed kick.”

I really enjoyed Lucy’s and his interactions and gosh, they were so funny! I definitely want to see more of those two! They are really entertaining and what makes it even better is that George isn’t taking Lucy’s accusations and shit! *LOL* He talks back, his comments are scathing and I just live for it! <3

But enough of that, let’s get to their interesting mission! Combe Carey Hall! The haunted house!!

”Architecturally it is a peculiar mishmash of a place - passages leading nowhere or doubling back upon themselves, odd changes of level... But more to the point, it has always had a sinister reputation. Stories of Visitors here go back centuries."

And Fairfax the owner of the aforementioned house!

”I must admit, though, I didn’t think he’d have the cheek to rifle through our bags while we weren’t looking. But there you go, that’s a measure of the man he is.”
“Why what kind of man is he?” George said, staring at his canister.
“A dreadful one. Isn’t it obvious?”

Sounds intriguing and creepy? You can bet your life on it! It definitely was! (Pun totally intended!! ;-P) Which actually brings me to the last bit of this short review! The intense creepiness of the book! *lol* I mean I admit that I’m a scaredy cat when it comes to horror movies and scary books, but for a supposedly middle grade book this was actually pretty erm… spooky. XD
I’m sure I would have loved this book as a kid, but I guess since I’m still a child in my mind my grown up-self had no troubles to enjoy it as well. ;-)

All told I really liked “The Screaming Staircase” and I can’t wait to read the next book!
Thanks for the attention and now excuse me while I go on an extended shopping trip to buy lavender, salt, iron chains and a few teeny-weeny magnesium flares.

Better safe than sorry, right? ;-P
Profile Image for Belle.
511 reviews515 followers
July 11, 2022
5 / 5 stars


This book follows Lucy Carlyle, a teenage ghost investigator looking for a job in London during The Problem. The Problem is a ghost infestation, with the dead not staying dead. It resulted in houses being haunted and many dead; and the only people capable of defeating the ghosts are children and teens.

Lucy winds up getting a job at London's more ramshackle agency (much to the disgust of George Cubbins, the deputy of the agency who is in a perpetual bad mood), where nothing ever works out the way it's supposed to. Bad luck and coincidental accidents follow this agency around like the plague.

I wouldn't go as far as to say that this trio is better than the famous golden trio (i'm not crazy okay, harry potter can never be bested in my eyes), but this definitely comes in a close second. The way the characters interacted with each other reminded me a lot of HP, and it was the most beautiful thing to find a group of friends who made me just as happy.

This book was beautiful. It was humorous, suspenseful, and adorable. The characters that filled this novel were nerdy, independent teenagers who had stronger backbones than the adults surrounding them. But hands down, the humour and banter was what made this book brilliant.

“Thanks for that,” George said, “I thought they were my best feature”.

“They are—that’s the tragedy of it.”

“Lovely summer evening, it was. She stood astride the crenulations, skirt flapping, silhouetted against a blood-red sky, while the servants tried to coax her back in with tea and seed cake. No good, of course.”

“What?” I said. “Saw what? Nothing happened.”

“Precisely. Where was HIS slap around the chops? Where was his firm shaking? There’re double standards at work here.”

These are just some of the funniest (and shortest, because I’m too lazy to type out the long funny) passages that literally had me laughing like a crazy person in public—which is not a good look.

The relationship between Lockwood, George and Lucy filled the majority of the book and I wouldn’t have it any other way. They were a dynamic group of characters, probably some of the best-written teenage characters I've ever read about—they weren’t walking stereotypes and didn’t get on my nerves.

I’m a sucker for anything English related, and the classic English slang and description just made this all the more atmospheric to me. This is one of those books that must be read late at night with a cup of tea, whilst it’s raining.

The first quarter was more about setting the scene and covering Lucy’s backstory, which was interesting enough, but I didn’t find it spectacular. And then I hit about page 150 and I read the rest all in one night. I was the walking dead the next day at work. This is one of those books that feels like only a hundred or so pages because it was so quick to read, the characters were unique, hilarious and realistic—I couldn’t get enough of Lockwood & Co.

I must admit that I’m not much of a fan of ghost stories, I’m jumpy as hell and oblivious which isn’t a good combination. I am one of those people who gets scared by their own shadow. But in saying this, I found this book creepy, but not scary. The way the world was set up and created was the best part, filled with interesting rules and history that made me fall in love with it.

The murder mystery didn’t stay much of a mystery for long in my opinion, but it was still extremely interesting to see how all the little details wove together, I cannot wait to see what the next book is about!


I just cannot get over Lucy as a character, what a badass. I freaking adore her ugh

Profile Image for  ⊱ Sonja ⊰ ❤️.
2,275 reviews406 followers
June 1, 2022
Lucy, George und Anthony sind Geisterjäger in London. Kinder und Jugendliche können Geistererscheinungen viel besser wahrnehmen als Erwachsene. Lucy hat zudem die Fähigkeit, die Geister zu hören, während George und Anthony sie eher sehen können. George ist hauptsächlich für die Recherche zuständig, und so ergänzen sich die drei prima zu einem erfolgreichen Team. Bei ihrem neuesten Auftrag allerdings geht einiges schief.

Mein Leseeindruck:
"Die seufzende Wendeltreppe" ist ein toller Auftakt zu einer neuen Buchreihe. Die Geschichte liest sich sehr flüssig, sie ist spannend, unheimlich und dennoch auch humorvoll. Die Dialoge der drei Hauptprotagonisten haben mir fast am besten gefallen, da besonders Lucy und George sich immer wieder foppen.
Besonders George ist ein toller Charakter, wie ich finde. Zu Beginn der Geschichte konnte ich noch nicht viel mit ihm anfangen; vielleicht war er mir sogar ein bisschen unsympathisch. Doch das hat sich im Laufe der Geschichte geändert!
Ich mag den Schreibstil des Autors. Bei diesem Buch ist mir die Lesezeit sehr kurz vorgekommen; die Seiten flogen nur so vorüber.
Das Ende der Geschichte ist rund und gut gelöst. Außerdem macht es neugierig auf die Fortsetzung, auf die ich mich jetzt schon sehr freue!
Profile Image for Hannah Greendale.
703 reviews3,275 followers
February 15, 2017
Lucy Carlyle has two special Talents: she can hear the voices of the dead and she can experience memories of the dead by touching belongings they once owned. Normally she puts her Talent to use for an organization that investigates paranormal phenomena, but when a tragic incident leaves her jobless, she wanders into the office of Lockwood & Co. hoping to find work. There she teams up with Anthony Lockwood and George Cubbins to tackle solving the mystery behind one of the most notoriously haunted houses in London.

With much talk of death, murder, and maligned spirits, The Screaming Staircase is worthy of its classification as a middle grade horror novel. Creepy events often arrive with an unnerving suddenness and evoke a satisfying sense of being spooked. Stroud brings numerous eerie settings to life with descriptions of dark hallways, whispered voices, slamming doors, and blood dripping from walls.

In fact, it wasn't at all an ugly hallway; in bright sunlight it might have looked quite pleasant. But not so much now, with the last light from the door panes stretching out like skewed coffins on the floor in front of us; and with our shadows neatly framed inside them; and with the manner of old Mr. Hope's death in this very place hanging heavy on our minds.

Ever since the Problem - an event that happened decades ago - supernatural beings have wandered the earth, roused by their own accord whenever night falls and reaching the apex of their power at midnight. Stroud's version of a ghost-riddled London is fleshed out and richly imagined with civilians wearing protective charms and herbs wherever they go, an extensive list of paranormal entities on the loose, and commonly known rules for tackling a varied array of supernatural phenomena.

When entering a house occupied by a Visitor, it's always best to get in quick. That's one of the first rules you learn. Never hesitate, never linger on the threshold.

And there was a switch on the wall, right there. But we didn't attempt to use it. You see, a second rule you learn is this: electricity interferes. It dulls the senses and makes you weak and stupid. It's much better to watch and listen in the dark.

Unfortunately, Lucy Carlyle makes for a dull narrator. She has no sparkle. Nothing that makes her special or memorable. She is regularly overshadowed by her gallant associate, Anthony Lockwood. Even dumpy George Cubbins, a gross boy who's the butt of every joke, makes a more amusing addition to the story.

Further, The Screaming Staircase is bloated with exposition. At almost four hundred pages, the book tends to drag at times. To be fair, this is the first book in a series, so hopefully the books that follow will require less time to establish backstory. Where the surplus of exposition is occasionally wearisome, the author makes up for it with his carefully crafted sentences:

Burning papers, ignited by the first surge from the canister, were plucked aloft, blown directly at my face. I batted them away, watched them whirl off, willed by something unseen. They blew in squalls across the room, landed on books and shelves, on desk and curtains, on curls of wallpaper, on bone-dry files and letters, on dusty cushions on the chair . . .
Like stars at dusk, hundreds of little fires winked into being, one after another, high, low, and all around.

Finally, a glossary at the back of the book introduces young readers to related terms like ectoplasm, death-glow, ghost-lock, and more.

Though it's overstuffed with exposition and reaches a predicable conclusion, The Screaming Staircase is a promising start to a new series.
Profile Image for Reynita ★ The Night Reader ★.
123 reviews937 followers
August 28, 2018

Edit : few months have passed since I read this book and I recently feel I'm missing the characters so I finally made up my mind to buy the second book! Hopefully, I'll buy a copy soon. ☺️


3.5 Stars.

"My view is: with you and
George on my team, nothing can stand in our way."

The problem has been happening for over 50 years. This problem is an epidemic of supernatural phenomena (ghosts) and there are agencies to help people to deal with their supernatural problems or the supernatural threat.
Lucy Carlyle is a girl who works for an agency called Lockwood & Co. and the leader of this agency is Anthony Lockwood. So they have this one case that doesn't end well and involving fire and because of this they need to pay for the damage and they only have 4 weeks to pay up or it will involve court proceedings and lockwood & Co. can be shut down. So now, they need to save the agency and this problem of theirs leads them to one of the most haunted houses in England.

so you're probably are wondering how much money do they have to pay? and what happens with that case that doesn't end well? and can they save the agency? and will they survive at the end? and what will happen inside the haunted house?
well, you have to read the book yourself to know the answers. :p

My Opinion Time!

So, it's been a pretty long time since I read a book about ghosts or in the genre of Paranormal. To be honest, Paranormal isn't really my favorite genre but sometimes I still want to read it if it's about ghosts. But if it's about Vampires or Werewolves or fallen angels, etc, I'll just pass. But, it doesn't mean they're not good. it's just that I'm not a fan of them and if you like them, then I totally respect your opinion! :D


This book has been on my want to read list since last year ( I guess ). But it wasn't my priority so I didn't even remember it (sorry not sorry) and before I read this book, I tried so hard not to have high expectations about it because I WAS SO TIRED OF DISAPPOINTMENT.I still am actually and thank God, this book didn't disappoint me at the end but I'm pretty sure it would disappoint me if I set my expectations high before reading it.

Most of the time when I read this book, I just felt plain to the plot and the characters. I didn't feel amazed or excited but this book made me curious about how it would end. Seriously, if this book didn't make me curious, I would abandon it and start another book to spend my time. oh and this book didn't scare me at all.Look, I might didn't set my expectations high before reading it but I thought this book would scare me at least. But it didn't. I shouldn't have expected this would happen because I rarely got what I expected


I honestly don't know whether the problem is within myself or it's the book's fault but the more I think about it, I realize that books rarely scared me and there are two books that actually scared me and I always get confused every time I think about the characters. look, they weren't boring but they weren't fascinating either. They were just ... simple? fine? but thankfully, they were quite funny and I laughed a little bit while reading it.

Overall, I quite enjoyed reading it and it was worth my time and I didn't regret reading at all. I had a quite good time with this book but I would be happier if I enjoyed it more, actually. However, I still don't know whether or not I will continue reading this series. But you'll know when I do. ;D

thank you for reading and liking this review. I appreciate it very much and I hope you all have a great day! ❤❤

Me : *whispers to the book*
Me : Please don't disappoint me. I'm so tired of being disappointed.
Profile Image for Tina ➹ Woman, Life, Freedom.
394 reviews402 followers
December 21, 2022
4.5 Golden Stars

wow! the Winchesters definitely need some iron swords too! (but I mostly prefer Iron rings to punch the ghosts in the face!) XD

okay, out of Supernatral tv shows, into Lockwood & Co:

about the Concept:

if you like supernatural horror detective stories, you probably like this.
if you are in Winchester brothers fanclub, you like this.
if you watch (& like/love) Supernatural TV shows, you definitely like this.

tho at first two pages, I had Sherlock vibes, but in general, I felt I was in a #SPN investigation (I was constantly screaming (internally) 'get the salt!', 'burn the bones!', 'Ahhhh, Getting Cold! Be careful!' during reading it. & it was exhilarating, fun & amazing!

One thing is clear, it's not a mere middle grade (as I just see it categorized as middle grade); a.k.a it's an amazing, worth reading middle grade or in other words, it's regardless of age middle grade.

Supernatural, Historical, London, mild Horror, Mystery, thrilling, fun story!
it was one of the most anticipated books I wanted to read & I really enjoyed reading this.
a quick read. YA with a little middle grade-ish vibes. (so far there is chemistry, but no serious romance, but it's only book 1 & it needs brewing like every good book. *finger crossed*)

I loved Lockwood! He's the leader, but not the main MC of this story, as in POV character. He was good, confident, resourceful & had the serious humour. (with messy black hair. coincidence? (that he is my fav character?) I don't think so!) also he was that kind of reserved character who tried to act careless (another one of my favourite arcs!) & I can't wait to know his backstory! I'm so intrigued.
Lucy was good. smart & brave & witty, but not added to my fav heroines (yet?)- update: she will be in book 2 :D
George was the cute nerd & the sarcastic one.

& although the writing style was 1st person view of a girl, but I didn't get annoyed at all! it was brilliant! & that's awesome!
World Weaving: ★★★★/5
Characters: ★★★★/5
Written style: ★★★★★/5
Plot: ★★★★(★)/5
General idea: ★★★★★/5
Profile Image for booksnpenguins (wingspan matters).
757 reviews2,319 followers
February 21, 2023
"Okay," I hurried on. "But why me?"
"You're a girl," Lockwood called. "Aren't you supposed to be more sensitive?"
"To emotions, yes. To nuances of human behavior. Not necessarily to secret passages in a wall."
"Oh, it's much the same thing."

Hello, let me introduce you to one of my new favorite series.
I freaking loved this first book and I seriously can't wait to read more of it.
The writing was exquisite and funny, and there's seriously not a character I haven't loved with my entire soul (honorable mention to the one and only queen of sass and badasserie Lucy Carlyle).
It that wasn't enough to explain how much and how positively it affected me, the plot of this book was extraordinary and it flowed so well I couldn't put this book down except for when I forcefully had to.

Get ready, world. This girl over here's got a new obsession and its name is Jonathan Stroud's Lockwood & Co. series!
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Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
839 reviews3,757 followers
February 15, 2021

Edit 03/25 : Reread with my teacher glasses... Well now, this is a success :) Let's see what the kids think now!

Why an experiment? To be honest, I wasn't accustomed to discriminating Middle-Grade and Young Adult novels back when I read in French. WHY? This would be because they're similarly advertised (when in hardbacks) - and don't get me started about the New Adult ones which are blended with them : frankly, I applause all the parents who're trying to make some sense of the way books are sold to their teenagers. I mean it. You guys are so brave.

Anyway, my point is that I stopped reading Middle-Grade novels around the time I started experiencing books in English, running far away each time I saw the "children" shelf. Doing that, 1) I was missing out on some amazing stories, and 2) I couldn't properly recommend books to young teenagers (my older pupils, for example).

That's why I decided to stop narrowing my possibilities - and here I am, reading The Screaming Staircase. No need to say that I don't regret a second of my read.

Actual rating : 3.5 stars

Alternative history is starting to become one of my favorite world-building tropes. How is London different? Basically, the dead decided that to rest in peace was way too boring, and started to wander the earth after dark : first they are many, second they're more dangerous (they have the power to kill you in a blue painful death - yes, it's as horrible as it sounds).

Jonathan Stroud's trick lies in the fact that only children and teenagers can sense them fully and then, fight them. I really like this idea because this way we don't have to suspend our disbelief about the odds of teenagers investigating, and it constitutes an awesome premise in my opinion.

Plot wise, what we get here is a murder mystery... Annabel (don't you think this is the most beautiful name of the world? Huh?) was a young socialite in the 60s when she brutally disappeared... until Lockwood and Co find her again during a fucked up mission.

SPOILER ALERT : She was dead.

This is precisely where the shoe pinches : PREDICTABILITY. Indeed I figured the mystery out pretty fast, and the ending confirmed everything I thought. Is it a fail, then?

No. I did guess what will happen around 50-60%, but it didn't prevent me from enjoying my read, and to be fair, I still think that it was well-crafted for a MG, way darker and grittier than I would have at first imagined.

Anyway - despite my tendency to turn into some Nancy Drew, the story was still completely addictive. No need to say more.

If there's still room for further improvement, for example when it comes to the depth of the characters, I grew attached to them and felt connected, which is not a sure thing in many books. Not to mention that since it's a series, I can completely nurture the hope that they will be (more) developed.

In a word, if the characterization isn't flawless, the author made me love his characters (all right, with a soft spot for Lockwood) and they're FULL of potential in my opinion.

First of all, Lucy is a strong female lead, kickass but acknowledging her fears, in other words, my favorite kind. Her inner thoughts gave me several genuine and unexpected laughs (the best kind in my opinion) and I really appreciated the fact that she was never seen as the "weak" member of the team.

As for George, his nerdness and... hmm... weirdness is smile-inducing, I have to admit.

And last but not least : Lockwood! God, I love his sarcastic (but never mean) mind and his secretive personality. In my opinion characters are winners when 1)they feel real and 2)they make the readers want to know MORE about them, not because they're one dimensional, but because what we do know is already fascinating. Yet he did annoy me when he started to keep his discoveries and hypothesis to himself : YOU ARE PART OF A TEAM, DUDE. Just don't forget it. Sigh. I'm willing to forgive him, though, but do not do this anymore, okay?

But most of all I fell in love with the characters' dynamics playing out in the ghosts hunting team : I genuinely think that we have never enough books where friendship is well-portrayed, especially when aiming a younger audience.

We need to talk about the scary scenes. Okay. I know what you think. Anna. You're such a pussy.

Annnd you might be right. But. But. But. I didn't imagine the way my heart pounded at some scenes. I'm not delusional. It did happen, and for me, it's everything I need to know when dealing with a ghost story. Did I feel oppressed? YES. WELL DONE.

Let me get this straight : I wasn't scared TO DEATH, but it did let me... What's the word... Spooky? Jumpy? Now, what you need to know is that I grew up in a house where basically everyone believed in ghosts to a certain extend (not me, though - I'm the cynical of the bunch). My mother most of all. SO, MUM, THIS IS TOTALLY YOUR FAULT.

Also, in this world when there are ghosts there are spiders as well. Fucking SPIDERS. Will the nightmare never end??? *shivers*

There's no denying that this book is incredibly well-written, and the narration surprisingly GREAT. Really, I am genuinely impressed by the writing and despite being MG, the characters hardly feel more juvenile than YA ones even if they are around 13? 14? 15? (What? I got lost at some point)

Not to mention that the dialogues made me smile more often than not. Think banter. Sarcasm.

All in all, a really good introduction to this series, and I can hardly wait to read the sequel.

For more of my reviews, please visit:
Profile Image for ✨    jami   ✨.
660 reviews3,882 followers
August 21, 2018
well this was totally freaking spooky and scary 👻 Ghost hunting, mansion hauntings, screaming staircases, murder and a trio of best friends? This book really does have it all. All the Good Stuff

“Of the first few hauntings I investigated with Lockwood & Co. I intend to say little, in part to protect the identity of the victims, in part because of the gruesome nature of the incidents, but mainly because, in a variety of ingenious ways, we succeeded in messing them all up.”

I'm shocked you people all read this as children because some parts of this are genuinely terrifying. Don't know if it was the book itself, or the spooky voices the author put on to voice the ghosts, but I, for one, had the chills.

The Screaming Staircase is the first book in a ghost hunting series - we're introduced to The Problem, an invasion of ghosts and other ghoulies in London. Enter: The Agencies, companies run by adults that use children to investigate hauntings. Only children can sense ghosts and our protagonist Lucy Carlyle is particularly susceptible to hearing their voices. When she joins Lockwood & Co, the only independent Agency run by children in London, she has to help her new friends and colleagues Anthony Lockwood and George Cubbins investigate not only the murder of a young woman, but also the most haunted building in London. Their reputation as an agency is on the line, and so are their lives.

This book had so many elements I love, just in general but especially in middle grade. Strong friendships between the main characters, hilarious banter, and plenty of action. I listened to the whole middle of this book in one day because I was so drawn in by the action.

I think what I loved most though was the agency given to the children. Especially since this is middle grade, the focus on the children being capable and talented and not needing adults to interfere was my favourite. The focus on the plight of the children and how they were exploited by their agencies was one of my favourite themes of this book, and it's especially important considering this is middle grade.

But I definitely think what was most memorable about this book was the characters. Lucy, George and Anthony are such fun protagonists to follow, and kind of reminded me of the Golden Trio. Each had a very unique voice and characteristics, and they were also quite fleshed out. Lucy especially was a fun female protagonist for me, she was so quick witted and talented!

Finally, the world building was very well done. Without being cumbersome the world was explained and there was so much interesting backstory and history, like the legendary Fitz's, or the development of the agencies, and how The Problem started at all. I think the worldbuilding was very detailed and complex, and managed to be so without feeling like it was all being dumped on me. Very well done.

Since I listened on audio, I should mention the narrator of the audiobook did an AWESOME job. The voices she used for each character were unique and easy to follow, plus the ghost voices were so spooky. I think she definitely managed to make it atmospheric and it was very easy to visualise which I liked.

I will definitely continue this series, though I kinda wanna read one in physical form to see how everything is freakin spelt haha. But this series is definitely as fun and action packed as everyone said! The characters are great and I really want to follow their development and growth as a team, and to see those dynamics change and develop. Plus, the Anthony/Lucy ship must rise ?? This book just set up the whole series really nicely and I'm sure the books will get better and better

If you're looking for something a bit spooky with good worldbuilding, lots of action and characters who will actually make you laugh out loud go no further !
Profile Image for Kaylin (The Re-Read Queen).
422 reviews1,629 followers
June 1, 2017
3 Stars



^ Basically my entire feelings about this book. I can appreciate it, but something about it didn’t click. I just don’t think it was for me.

I liked it. I just didn’t love it.

Buddy Read with the lovely Frankie! Who enjoyed this much more than I did!


There’s some super cool worldbuilding. It’s ghosts mixed with science and somehow it works. This is set in a London where the world is almost over-run with paranormal activity, and children are the only ones able to detect them. It's a fun premise that's carried out well.

The atmosphere is deliciously creepy and Jonathan Stroud brilliantly uses sensory details to illustrate a scene. Definitely spookier than I expected, and even my hyper-rational brain was wincing at shadows after some late-night-reading.

Lockwood is a delightfully cocky lil thing without being calloused or uncaring. This was well-balanced combo that I really appreciated.

There’s some really witty and hilarious dialogue that I really enjoyed.


It was glaringly obvious to me that I was outside the target age. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more old until I was half-way through thinking, “You’re how old again? Why don’t you spend your money wisely? How come none of you have guardians or parental supervison at all? Why is everyone so reckless?”

There’s just a lot of middle-grade humor and I think my inner-child is on vacation or something, but it just didn’t work for me. Like I get it. George in his underwear is supposed to be funny.

Lucy, our narrator, was so boring. She stands up for herself and has ideas… but that’s kind of it? It felt like she didn’t have a ton of personality and her voice was overall really dry. I spent the first third of this convinced it was a historical because the way she speaks is so… wordy? Outdated? It just felt very off and bored me.

I’m actually still not completely certain this isn’t a historical. I’m sorry if it is.

In Conclusion

A creepy adventure with a fun cast of characters—that I’m sure others more used to Middle Grade will enjoy more than I did.

(Also I'm sorry Sana.
At least I didn't DNF and one star it.)
Profile Image for ♛ may.
806 reviews3,793 followers
June 1, 2017
This book was one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in a while.


Reasons Why this books is Epicsauce
- Anthony Lockwood
- The whispering skull that lives!!for!!the!!roasts!!
- Ghosts and scary things like staircases that scream and walls that bleed and young girls with creepy pasts
- Ghosts
- Even tho it was categorized as middle school genre, it had me SHOOK
- But not toooooooo scary so you’ll be okay
- Fast paced
- Strong build up
- Sass
- George and his unconditional love for food
- Squad goals
- Little kids running the show

Reasons Why this book was Also Kinda Basicsauce
- Lucy is kinda really dull
- Im sure she has a nice personality but she’s very monotone with her descriptions
- Everything was solved in like 35 seconds
- Its not v realistic for young kids to act this way
- They sound like 35 year olds who are trying to settle down when theyre like 13

In conclusion, the book is good and now I’m gonna binge the rest of the series with my partner in crime.

4 stars!!


Buddy reading with this muggle ϟϟ

this better be good
Profile Image for Bentley ★ Bookbastion.net.
242 reviews552 followers
September 9, 2017
See this review and more like it on www.bookbastion.net!

Well that was fun and basically everything I hoped it would be!

Every once in awhile, in the midst of all my fantasy and YA reads I get a craving to read something just a little bit spooky. When I first came across some friends on my feed raving about this book, it immediately called to me. What's spookier than ghosts? To me, not much!

I wasn't sure when I could fit this into my reading schedule until Netgalley emailed me a widget for the first book, at which point I couldn't pass it up.

There was a lot to love here. For starters, I love the whole alternate history idea: a world where ghosts have been proven to exist, and they're actually incredibly dangerous to the living. A world where children's latent psychic abilities turn them into weapons against the dead. At first glance there's a lot to learn as Stroud has filled the book with terms unique to this world he's created. Thankfully, there's a glossary at the back of the book, so no one need get too lost while reading. There's also a lot of backstory provided that help to establish the world and all these ghostly aspects of it for the reader.

The way these components of the story are introduced are a bit overwhelming, but I prefer the way this book avoids infodumping by just getting on with the story and hoping the reader catches on over time. It's a bit like being thrown into the deep end but also being provided with swimming lessons along the way to ensure you don't drown in the details.

Stroud manages to balance the spooky with the silly quite well here. The ghosts are definitely scary, but the dialogue and interactions between the living characters provide a necessary levity to the events, so children who read the book won't be too scared out of their wits. Like a new age Beetlejuice, there's a levity here that was unexpected but also quite welcome.

The three leads have such great chemistry together. I got an extreme Doctor Who vibe from Lockwood especially. As the leader of their little paranormal investigative outfit, and typically the most informed about the paranormal, Lockwood felt very Doctor-ish to me, and Lucy and George, his companions/assistants. Basically, I was imaging this the entire way through:

The characters provided the necessary dynamic for a lot of Lockwood's revelations and intellect about their investigations to shine through. Now, I'm a big fan of all things Doctor Who, so finding such similarity in the way these characters are built was quite a pleasant surprise to me.

The only reason I'm detracting a star is because I thought the plotting could have been a bit tighter. The story is broken up into 5 parts, "The Ghost; Before; The Necklace; The Hall; And After," a decision that thought felt a bit wonky. I spent nearly 50% of the book trying to figure out what the main plot of the book was actually going to be about. All of the events and the ghostly encounters are certainly a great deal of fun, but I think I would have enjoyed it a tiny bit more had there been a clearer plot arc to the story.

It might just be a case of the first book in a series needing to spend so much time establishing the world and aspects of it that the plot got a little sidelined. I'm hopeful that the next books in the series will have a clearer focus on direct plot movement now that the world has been properly introduced. Regardless, the events in this story are certainly entertaining and they fulfilled that need for a spooky read I was looking for, so I had a great time reading.

Looking forward to reading the next books soon!

4 out of 5 stars!

Thank you Netgalley and Disney-Hyperion for the opportunity to read and review this book!
Profile Image for Kayla Dawn.
291 reviews894 followers
August 3, 2019
3,5* - this was definitely entertaining but it unfortunately dragged on sometimes, especially in the beginning.
Profile Image for Heather.
319 reviews288 followers
May 13, 2017
4.5 stars
See this review and others at A Thousand Lives of Frankie Lovely
Buddy read with my girl Kaylin
who did not love this as much as I did.

Ok so … I LOVED it
Also, my inner child has a new book boyfriend

The Story

Perhaps better titled “The world”, because I am going to avoid telling you anything about the actual story. Some things are better left to your own discovery and I feel like this book is one of those instances.

Lucy can hear things … not the things you and I can hear (for we - at least most of us - are much too old). No. Lucy Carlyle can hear paranormal activity. Ghosts and apparitions and the things that go bump in the night.

It has been over 50 years since the beginning of “the problem”, that is, the arrival of a devastating ghost epidemic that is terrorizing the city of London. Dangerous things lurk in the night, and the ones who can stop these hauntings … the agents … or Psychic Investigation Agencies. Typically, such agencies are managed by adults (though adults lack the gifts needed to fight “the problem”) while the agents consist of talented children with certain abilities. However, Lockwood & Co. is different in every way. Lockwood & Co. is owned and operated solely by children and is the smallest - and perhaps not what one might call the most prestigious - agency in London ... and the talented Lucy Carlyle is about to find herself a member of this crew of three.

What I liked

This book was so much fun! I haven't really given middle grade books enough of a chance in my reading routine and this really needs to be remedied. To be honest, I have read way too many YA and even adult books that were not this well written or developed. There is a certain stigma to middle grade books, that somehow this book will not relate to me or be interesting to me because I am “past that point” in my life (which is a dumb way for me to think, considering that YA is my favorite genre and I am certainly beyond that point in my life as well). This book was not childish in any way. It was dark and twisted while also maintaining a lightness that was refreshing and had me laughing out loud. It also made me afraid of the dark (which let’s face it is not a difficult feat as I am pretty much terrified of anything relating to spiritual and ghost activity … yeah I'm a wuss). I guess what I'm getting at here is that, while this is middle grade, it is for an older middle grade audience and very easily appeals to an even wider audience still.

The writing of these books is fantastic. Again, as I stated above, I have read many many many YA and adult books that were not this well written and developed. The world is an easy to understand and unique world, the characters are complex and really well developed, the subject matter is appealing to a large audience, and basically I am well on my way to being Lockwood trash.

So let’s talk for a minute about the characters, because these kids are the best thing about this series (not to take away from the fact that everything about this series is also pretty awesome). Ok so, yes. My inner child is in love with Anthony Lockwood! I will shout it from the rooftops. He is a precious child and I love him dearly. Lockwood’s character, as you will see, is very secretive. It is obvious that he has many ghosts in his closet (no pun intended), but he is also very lighthearted. I do adore a broken character and I get the feeling that Lockwood is hiding some pain behind his bluster and snark. But oh the snark! I love it so so so much I can't stand it! Lockwood’s sarcastic attitude is everything I need to give this book the lightness that it needs to counter balance the sometimes gruesome and heavy themes of the stories. Speaking of snark and lighthearted banter, I would be remiss not to mention the other shining star of this series! George Cubbins. Oh my sweet little nerdy naïve child! George is the researcher of the crew and is sometimes a bit too literal - which makes for some fun banter and funny moments. He is also pretty snarky which, have I mentioned I love snark? In some ways, I actually enjoyed his character more than Lockwood. George has a certain humor that is dry and witty and aloof that meshes perfectly with my own personal brand of funny. He is dedicated (overly so at times) to his research and experiments, again lending to some pretty funny moments. And basically the only time I liked our third and final main character (and narrator) Lucy, was during her interactions (aka arguments) with George. Which brings me, of course, to the tiny little blip of negatives I had with this book.

What I did not like

Unfortunately, I did find Lucy (our narrator) to be a little bit on the boring side. Her character is just as developed as the others, but she is simply a more reserved character overall. I would not call her weak or timid though. She has some interesting backstory in this book which I enjoyed, and as mentioned above, some really great banter with both Lockwood and George. But there was just something about her point of view that I found the slightest bit lacking at times (but only in small measure). Because of this, and because of the slowish pacing of certain parts of the story, this book took me a little bit to get into. But once I was in … I was all in!

In conclusion

I loved this book and these characters and this world and this idea and the mixing of light humor with dark subjects. This book is fantastic and I cannot wait to read more in the series! I'm going to say it now … I see the possibility for a full fledged obsession forming and I couldn't be more happy about it!
Profile Image for Ginger.
753 reviews371 followers
July 10, 2017
This YA spooky series was a surprise for me! I enjoyed the book more than I thought I would.
The writing was well done, the plot was complex and the scary moments were fantastic. I really enjoyed the world building that Jonathan Stroud has produced with the hauntings, how to destroy them and the type of world the characters live in because of this ghostly issue, aka "The Problem".

The Problem is the epidemic of hauntings currently affecting Britain and how only young children and teenagers can actually see the ghosts. So they are put into work at an early age to destroy the phantoms, poltergeist and other baddies.

I also enjoyed the characters of Lockwood & Co; Anthony, Lucy and George more then expected.
I had a few issues with their age in the beginning of the book but I always struggle when characters do stupid and impulsive acts. But then 1/2 way through the book, the characters become less impulsive and this worked for me. Yay!

If you like YA series, I think you will love these books and if you like spooky books, the same.
I'm super picky with YA series but this worked for me.
One other thing that I liked, no instalove or a love relationship with teenagers in this book. Woohoo!

I'm actually looking forward to reading the rest of the books in this series!
Profile Image for Rachel  L.
1,826 reviews2,185 followers
August 20, 2019
Audio re-read August 2019.
Thoughts remain the same!

4 stars!

“Of the first few hauntings I investigated with Lockwood & Co. I intend to say little, in part to protect the identity of the victims, in part because of the gruesome nature of the incidents, but mainly because, in a variety of ingenious ways, we succeeded in messing them all up.”

Who knew a middle grade novel could be TERRIFYING! It took me a while to get through this book because I was too scared to read it at night!

The Screaming Staircase takes place in England, where an epidemic of ghosts has covered the country with people taking extra precautions to keep them away. Since younger people have better abilities to see and sense them, they are the front of the army against this supernatural issue.

Lucy has the gift of hearing ghosts and is excellent at what she does. She joins the Lockwood and Company, a small ghost hunting agency run by Anthony Lockwood with another boy named George. The three of them work to rid the world of ghosts, one haunting at a time….

"No. I'm being ironic. Or is it sarcastic? I can never remember."
"Irony's cleverer, so you're probably being sarcastic.”

I’ve had several people recommend me this book and I’ve always meant to get to it. I am very glad I finally did and tried a new to me author, because this book is excellent. It’s like Supernatural for tweens, but in England and with a female lead character. I love the concept of younger adults being placed into adult situations because they are the only ones who can help.

As I mentioned before, this book was fairly scary. So much so that after finishing it I needed to watch rom coms to get me out of my frightened glow. Stroud is a compelling and excellent writer and I am definitely going to be reading the other books in this series soon.

“Well, when you're being held at gunpoint by a geriatric madman in a metal skirt, you've kind of hit rock bottom anyway. It can't really get much worse.”

Follow me on ♥ FacebookBlogInstagramTwitter
Profile Image for Melindam.
631 reviews273 followers
October 13, 2020
0Teenager Ghostbusters


in London


and in a haunted mansion


with lots of tea, fright and all kinds of otherworldly creatures. Scary, funny, tense and exciting in equal parts from beginning to end.
What more do you need to celebrate Halloween?

Normally I give a wide berth to ghost or horror stories on all levels, be they adult or even middle-grade, but the fact that the book was written by Jonathan Stroud was irresistible.

He is a brilliant writer - I knew that already while reading his Bartimaeus-trilogy, but it was some time ago and this book was a great reminder.

He presents us with great characters, an intriguing plot and awesome world-building.
Although the when was never really specified, I kept imagining this alternate London/Britain in all the glory of Victorian steampunk. Granted it wasn't, but the mind of a bookreader is a curious place and it just insisted.

A great book through and through.

Arc received from the Publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Данило Судин.
492 reviews178 followers
February 19, 2023
Коли вийшов серіал "Lockwood & Co" на Netflix'і, дружина радила спершу прочитати книгу, а далі вже дивитися екранізацію. Але я вирішив ризикнути - і читати таки опісля. Що ж, екранізація, мабуть, вплинула на мої враження від тексту. Але не скажу, що в бік згіршення.

Книжка набагато цілісніша. По-перше, в ній є глосарій, а також багато пояснень в тексті. І від цього краще вимальовується картина суспільства, що живе поруч із привидами. Читаючи трилогію Бартімеуса, я вже відзначав доволі сильний соціологічний аспект вигаданих Страудом світів. Так сталося і з Лондоном, який зіткнувся з Проблемою (так називають нашестя привидів, які не просто лякають, але можуть вбивати - через дотик, який приводить до аналогу обмороження чи інфаркту м'язів).

По-друге, в книзі немає cliffhanger'ів, яких додали в серіалі для драматизму. Як не дивно, але це перевага. Бо інакше сюжет починає "надувати щоки" від самого початку. Мовляв, зараз вас таке чекає! Власне, краще, коли оце "таке" поставатиме поступово. Власне, воно відкриватиметься персонажам так само поступово, як і нам. Не люблю оцих розривів, коли читачі та читачки вже можуть здогадатися про сюжетний поворот, а герої та героїні - ще ні.

І є третя причина, чому книжка краща. Це пригода в замку, де є Червона кімната та Сходи, що кричать. У серіалі цю частину просто зіжмакали. В тексті Страуд майстерно нагнітає атмосферу, причому він переплітає стандартний готичний роман з сучасним надприродним горором. Виходить просто чудово! З одного боку, замок набуває "історичної" реальності (зі всіма балками, яким кількасот років, дворецькими, парками в англійському стилі), а з іншого - моторошна містика.

Щодо сюжету, то годі його переказувати. Насправді, він рухається дещо нелінійно (ми не маємо єдиної загадки від початку), але потім складається в одну цілісність. Тому найкраще просто довіритися автору - і читати роман. Тим більше, що персонажі там фактурні і одразу привертають увагу.
Profile Image for Faye, la Patata.
492 reviews2,115 followers
September 12, 2013

Man, this book was awesome and impressive. To be honest, although there are a lot of good MG stuff out there, I'm still a bit wary of this demographic because there is a fair amount of books out there in this category that is absolutely juvenile. But The Screaming Staircase screamed unique, it screamed different, it screamed FANTASTIQUE! in big, bold letters. There is so much to love in this book: the endearing, well-polished characters; the enchanting, well-written narration; and the hypnotic, effective atmosphere. LOVE LOVE LOVE!

One thing you should know about me is that I love a good scare. I relish the feeling of getting creeped out as it's one of those sensations that make me feel so alive. When I'm with friends and we're having sleepovers, I love sharing ghost stories with them, to the point that I suggest we go out ghost-hunting in supposedly haunted places (which was never realized, by the way... in the end, we become wussies) and sometimes, I even have the audacity to encourage using an ouija board to communicate with otherwordly beings (also never realized... the chances of it backfiring are rather high!). Long story short, I love horror. From movies to real life experiences, I've seen them all. But for some reason, books with ghosts never made me feel as scared. Most often than not, the horror factor in these books is utterly laughable, and I find myself disappointed over and over again.

But goodness, The Screaming Staircase totally changed all that. I can sincerely say this is better written than a lot of Young Adult novels out there.

The world is plagued with ghosts, ever since The Problem started, and the government has been using kids to find and exterminate them. Why kids? Because since their senses are still developing, they are more sensitive to these kinds of things. One of these agencies is Lockwood and Co., and independent organization (meaning free of adult supervision) run by three people - Anthony Lockwood, George Cubbins, and Lucy Carlyle. Together, they run into a lot of obstacles and a lot of mysteries, some of them possibly changing their lives forever.

For a Middle Grade book, this is dark, gritty, and quite violent. I was honestly expecting something a bit more mellow and gentle, maybe a simple ghostly apparition of a harmless ghost, but damn, the ghosts here are not just fucking scary but they are dangerous, too. There are different types, and the most dangerous ones can change their appearances and can kill. They can touch you and the area touched will rot. Of course, a lot of the ghosts ARE harmless, but there are a number of them, those who died violently and whose energies are still contained in certain objects, who can really make you think twice about engaging them. I loved how it gave me that violent sense of urgency and suspense, how it made me want to hide under the covers, and how it actually made me open my lights before sleeping.

I guess the writing is a factor of that, too, considering how it was so effective in giving the book a spooky atmosphere. Sure, there are instances where it's light-hearted and fun, but in the scenes that matter the most, it has done an excellent job of immersing you in the story and making you feel you are with the characters as they explore the haunted places. The description of the surroundings, the description of the feelings they feel when they sense a dangerous entity is near, the internal narration of the main character, Lucy... all of it were absolutely BRILLIANT. I cannot stress this enough. I've read a lot of horror in my time, but none of them EVER made the mood right, at least, not as effective as Stroud has done.

The characters were fun to read as well. Lockwood was adventurous, brave, reckless, and calm; George was sarcastic, cynical, intelligent, and cautious; Lucy was endearing, talented, and emotional. They're all so different in many ways, but together as a group, they were amazing and blended beautifully. It was fun to see them banter, protect each other, sort out the puzzles, etc. etc. Just for their dynamics and interaction alone, this book's already worth it.

Honestly, I have troubles deciding which is this book's strongest asset - the narration, the characters, or the mood/atmosphere? All of them were absolutely well done and written that's it's hard to pick. It's that amazing. I absolutely recommend this to everyone, especially those who want to give themselves a good scare or want to read something unique, fun, and dark at the same time.

No doubt a perfect 5 over 5!
Profile Image for ✶Rachelle✶ .
266 reviews123 followers
August 7, 2017
Update: 8/1/17
Rereading this because Lockwood ❤️ and Lucy 💕 and George ❤️

Also because I miss them 💕❤️💕





And now I want a Percy Jackson/Lockwood crossover book...
(Can someone make this happen?)

I usually shy away from ghost books cause that's just not my thing. But the wifey told me that Lockwood would be my next book boyfriend and since she knows best I figured I needed to check it out. And now I will forever be in her debt for sharing the love <3

Lockwood is funny, witty, snarky, and just the best ever. Lucy is his future wife (I refuse to ship him with anyone else) and is basically the bomb. And George is my son.

Okay time for book 2 please and thank you 👻


Since everyone else is reading it......
Profile Image for Cora Tea Party Princess.
1,323 reviews802 followers
December 10, 2018
I mostly requested this because I'd heard good things about it, and boy am I glad I did. This book is awesome!

I think that this is a children's book (middle grade maybe?) but don't let that put you off. This book is ridiculously well written, reading with the flair and complexity of only the best books (ever) and I freaking loved it.

This book is creepy and a little bit scary, set in a terrifying alternate world where ghosts have taken over the night and have the power to kill. When only the young can help to fight this threat, you can kiss goodbye to being a child. Children grow up too fast, too young, and risk their lives to protect everyone else.

The characters are marvellous. Each of them is individually strong, but as a team they are totally kick-ass.

Lucy is a refreshingly strong female lead who can stand on her own two feet. Despite her flaws she's no damsel in distress. She even saves the boys!

Both of the boys are complex too, with flaws of their own. Lockwood is infuriatingly mysterious and secretive - no one knows his background. But saying that, we don't know much about George either.

There is so much to learn, so much that I want to know, that I can't wait to read the next one.

This book is wonderfully written, set in a spine-tinglingly chilling world with a cast of crazy-marvellous, strong characters. It made me want to curl up in a nest of pillows and cushions and blankets and drink hot tea and eat jam sandwiches.

Simply? This book is marvellous.

This is one of those books that I push on people. A lot. Family? Check. Friends? Check. Random people in a book shop? Check. EVERYONE EVER? Check.

I received a copy of this for free via NetGalley for review purposes.
Profile Image for Betsy.
Author 8 books2,746 followers
October 31, 2015
I’m sick of historical fiction. I’m sick of contemporary fiction. I’m sick of realism and science fiction. Fantasy I watch with a wary eye. I don’t always feel this way but when I’ve read seven depressing meaningful middle grade books for kids in a row the old noggin screams for something enjoyable for once. And to place into this mental desert a book like The Screaming Staircase ... well, it’s the best possible cure for what ails ye. A pleasure from tip to tail, this is the book you hand the advanced readers that claim they’d rather read Paradise Lost than Harry Potter. Smart as a whip, funny, witty, and honestly frightening at times, Stroud lets loose and gives readers exactly what they want. Ghosts, kids on their own without adult supervision, and loads of delicious cookies.

It all began with The Problem. One day, for no apparent reason, the dead started to walk amongst the living. Not just walk, but really wreak some serious havoc. Here are the facts of the matter. 1. If you see a ghost, run. 2. Don’t let a ghost touch you, or you’re dead. 3. Only kids can see ghosts. What are we to make of these facts? Well, it’s no surprise when ghost-busting operations hiring children start cropping up. Enter Lockwood & Company. Run by the charming Anthony Lockwood alongside his two compatriots Lucy and George the ramshackle operation is barely scraping by. Enter a job that goes particularly wrong when the kids accidentally burn down their employers’ home, and it would take a miracle to save the agency. Fortunately, a miracle shows up in the form of a very rich and powerful man. He’s hiring the three to take on the most haunted house in all of Britain. The catch? No one’s ever gotten out of it alive. Will our intrepid heroes take on the job, or is there more at work here than meets the eye?

There is no debate surrounding the joy one feels when reading this book. It is already beloved. Even without his popular Bartimaeus series, Stroud could have debuted with The Screaming Staircase and garnered legions of fans upon impact. That is not to say that it is without debate, however. Indeed, there is one point of contention that is raised when people learn of this book. In a word: audience. Can one honestly hand this book to a savvy 11-year-old reader without so much as a blink, or should you give it to a teen instead? In my experience I’ve noticed that before people have read the book they look at it and instantly assume it’s YA (young adult). Whether it’s the plot description or the cover or what have you it seems teen to them. However, once they’ve actually sat down and read the book cover to cover, most folks I’ve spoken to agree that it’s just fine for the juvenile crowd. Is there more blood than you can shake a stick at? Sure. But it’s ghost blood. Hardly the same thing. The closest thing I can compare it to is Joseph Delaney’s first book in The Last Apprentice series, Revenge of the Witch. Scary but not inappropriate, which is a delicate line to walk. It doesn’t hurt matters any that the kids in this book never give their ages. They’re on the cusp of adolescence, sure, but the fact that there are no allusions to crushes or palpitations of the heart is significant in its absence. It’s kind of the perfect thing to hand that kid who can’t stand even a whiff of romance in their fiction.

At its heart this is a great book to scare a kid with. Over the years I’ve noticed that love of horror begins at a very young age and never seems to go away. I used to have a four-year-old come to my reference desk in the library over and over asking for “scary” books. Pretty much as long as I could hand him something with a vampire or a monster on the cover, he was content. Once they start reading on their own, many kids gravitate to the Goosebumps section of their library. Low-key horror thrills, tailor made for the 7-10 year-old set. But as with all things, kids outgrow fads. They find Goosebumps babyish. They want something with a little more bite. So rather than hand them Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children quite yet, I need something that will run a finger down their spines without tripping wholly into teen territory. In the past the aforementioned Revenge of the Witch was my go to book. Now The Screaming Staircase will serve just as nicely.

One point that I’m in danger of not mentioning is the fact that the book is bloody funny. Who else could get away with a sentence like, "..George Cubbins, handsome as a freshly opened tub of margarine, as charismatic as a wet tea towel lying scrumpled on the floor”? Scrumpled. Delicious. Actually, Stroud is at his best when Lucy is describing George. “With his glasses off, his eyes looked small and weak – blinky and a bit baffled, like an unintelligent sheep that’s taken a wrong turn. But when he put them on again, they went all sharp and steely, more like the eyes of an eagle that eats dumb sheep for breakfast.” All throughout the story you are in Lucy’s head and though she is allowed to make her own fair share of stupid mistakes (no Hermione Granger she, thank heavens), you like her snarky sense of the absurd. Lucy actually acts as a kind of Watson to Lockwood’s Holmes, but not the bumbling Watson we’re so familiar with these days. She’s got a good head on her shoulders. You come to like her compatriots too, for that matter. A wittier crew you won’t find this year.

Above and beyond the humor, however, there’s much to be said for Stroud’s actual writing. As I mentioned before, you love the characters. The plot and mystery components play fair (and I admit that I didn’t suspect the true villain of the piece when I probably should have). But it’s the wordplay that gets me. Consider a sentence like this: “In fact, it wasn’t at all an ugly hallway; in bright sunlight it might have looked quite pleasant. But not so much now, with the last light from the door panes stretching out like skewed coffins on the floor in front of us; and with our shadows neatly framed inside them..” Or, later, my favorite part is when Lucy is naming her old partners in the ghost busting business. “We worked together. We had fun. We saved each other’s lives a bit. Their names, if you’re interested, were Paul, Norrie, Julie, Steph, and Alfie-Joe. They’re all dead now.” It’s just a little twist of the knife, but it gets the job done.

There are some moments of British-to-American translation that rankled me but will pass unnoticed by the general child population. Lucy is continually talking about “tea and cookies”, a phrase guaranteed to jar in the head of this particular Anglophile. My suspicion is that this was a true “tea and biscuit” book from start to finish, but that biscuits have an entirely different connotation in the States and as a result the word was switched. Other switches passed me by unnoticed, which is to their credit. Pity about the cookies. Still, it’s a remarkably mild complaint to make. Cookies schmookies. The book’s a pip.

You would be forgiven for thinking this book a work of historical fantasy fiction, were it not informing you left and right of its contemporary nature. Velcro holds the rapiers in place, for example. In another moment a television is mentioned. Yet there’s something classic in its form. I suppose you could technically call the story post-apocalyptic, if you consider the apocalypse in question The Problem. You could call it a straight up horror story. Or you could turn around and label it a mystery. And what about fantasy? It’s definitely in that genre as well. Howsoever you feel like labeling it, there’s one thing you can certainly label the book: good. It’s a delight from start to finish and after you’ve devoured it you find yourself craving more more more. For everyone then. Child, teen, adult, or slow shuffling specter, this is a book for you. Try it on for size.

For ages 10 and up.
Profile Image for Madeline.
775 reviews47k followers
October 9, 2014
I can't believe I almost forgot about Jonathan Stroud. His Bartimaeus trilogy was one of my favorites when I was in middle school/high school, but I never thought I would find another one of his books, because for some reason I believed that he hadn't written anything else after that series. It was pure chance that I learned about this book at all - I can't remember which of my Goodreads friends put this on their to-read list, but someone did, and I happened to be looking at my feed at the exact right moment, so whoever it was, I thank you. It's been at least ten years since I read the Bartimaeus books, and going back to Stroud's writing was like catching up with an old friend.

Like his previous series, The Screaming Staircase concerns supernatural elements and takes place in Stroud's signature setting, London in an unspecified time period that feels like it should be the Victorian era but isn't (seriously, I don't know how Stroud does it - there's never anything in his books that specifically says "we're in the reign of Queen Victoria right now," but somehow that's always how I imagine the setting, and then I'm totally thrown off whenever someone starts talking about plastic or microwaves). With the Bartimaeus trilogy, it was demons and magicians. Here, it's ghosts.

The book starts out in media res, with teenagers Lucy Carlyle and Anthony Lockwood going to ghost-bust a haunted house. This is a great way to open the story, because we get to see Lucy and Lockwood in action and learn about their specific ghost-hunting gifts (Lockwood can see death-glows, and Lucy is an empath who can hear spirits and their emotions) without needing to sit through lots of buildup and exposition. It's only after the ghost-hunting section is over, and we're fully hooked, that Stroud has Lucy explain what's going on to the reader. About fifty years ago, she tells us, England was beset by "the Problem." Ghosts started appearing every night, and worse, they gained the ability to hurt people - Lucy talks about "ghost-touch," which can kill a person. Ghosts are invisible to adults, but children can see them, and have psychic abilities that fade when they grow up. So now ghost-hunting has become a profession in England, and the ghost hunters are all children and teenagers (which is a very neat solution to the central problem found in most YA-adventure lit, the question of why children are always running around unsupervised with weapons and magic). The worldbuilding is fantastic, with Stroud fully exploring what a society threatened by ghosts would look like. City-wide curfews are enforced, because ghosts only come out at night, and houses have to be protected with iron and channels of running water to keep the ghosts out. As I said, ghost-hunting has become an official profession, and Lucy works for Lockwood & Co, a pretty ragtag agency consisting of her, Lockwood, and another boy named George (who has been rather unfairly left off the cover of every edition of this book).

The job that's described in the beginning of the book is what starts the action. Lucy and Lockwood discover the body of a girl who was murdered fifty years ago (and is therefore the source of the haunting). The murderer was never caught, so the group starts trying to figure out who killed the girl, while also trying to keep their agency from going bankrupt. Then they get hired to investigate one of the most haunted buildings in England - it houses the screaming staircase of the title, and also "the Red Room" and don't worry, it's just as terrifying as it sounds.

The writing is sharp and witty, although none of the kids can match Bartimaeus in snark. All of the ghosts are legitimately terrifying, and the entire sequence at the haunted house is suspenseful and delightfully scary. The characters are well-done and fun, and Lucy is a fantastic heroine.

This was the only wobbly part of an otherwise well-paced, witty, scary, and well-written story - the haunted house and the murder investigation seem like two separate stories, and don't really mesh well together even after we learn how they're connected. The murder mystery itself is pretty good, but it's solution is so weak that I had to take a star from the book's rating. Without giving anything away (I'll save that for the spoiler button in a minute), it's one of those very irritating mysteries where the culprit is only caught because they kept doing shit to scare someone off the case, like every villain in every episode of Scooby-Do ever. Stroud's villain gives those guys a run for their money in the scaring-people-off-the-case-and-therefore-helping-them-solve-it department. We eventually find out that

The book can almost function on its own as a story, although there's some setup for a sequel at the end, hinting that we're going to learn more about Lucy's abilities and the origins of the Problem. I'll have to track down Book 2 as soon as I can.
Profile Image for Audrey.
1,028 reviews165 followers
December 29, 2022
England has a Problem—it’s haunted. Ghosts are dangerous and they’re everywhere. Because only the very young can see and hear ghosts while adults can’t, many are “agents” in Ghostbusters-type organizations.

The story begins in the middle of a case, which gets you right in the middle of the action and learning about the world without info-dumping. Then it backtracks to how Lucy, our POV character, joined Lockwood & Co. Then we have a big case with some seriously spooky chapters and a mystery to tie everything together.

Lucy, George, and Lockwood comprise the Lockwood & Co. agency. These characters are very well developed, and their interaction is entertaining. The story is full of ghosts and mysteries; there is real danger and plenty of spookiness; the plot structure and pacing are excellent; the writing is top-notch. Recommended for all ages. This is one of my top favorite books and favorite series. Narration by Miranda Raison is excellent.

Language: Mild
Sexual Content: None
Violence/Gore: Descriptions of violent deaths and old corpses
Harm to Animals:
Harm to Children:
Other (Triggers):

Review updated
Profile Image for Ashley.
800 reviews440 followers
March 31, 2023
Star Rating: —> 4 Stars

Where have I been and why have I not read this book, until now?!?! What? This was FANTASTIC! I hope to continue the series soon 💜
Profile Image for emma.
152 reviews569 followers
June 25, 2017
I was really excited to start this series, because someone *cough* Sana had hyped it up so much. Needless to say, it more than met those expectations.

The Screaming Staircase follows the story of a team of teenage ghosthunters, set in an AU London plagued by dangerous paranormal apparitions. It was somehow fun and cute and creepy all at the same time. I don’t read very much middle grade, and I appreciated that while this was easy to read and its content is appropriate for a younger audience, Stroud doesn’t write down to his readers. As C.S. Lewis said, “A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest,” and I couldn’t agree more.

The characters were all so well-crafted and precious, and definitely the highlight of the book for me. I loved Lockwood, Lucy, and George all individually, but they also had fantastic group chemistry. They’re sweet and funny and brave, and I just want to hug them all and also hire them the next time I’m home alone at night and start hearing strange noises.

Additionally, the worldbuilding was fantastic—Lockwood & Co.’s London is both similar and eerily different from our own. The level of detail provided about the history of the hauntings and the ways society has adapted to living among ghosts was fascinating. I also liked that there was actually a reason for such young protagonists to have so much responsibility in this system: as children and teens are far more sensitive to paranormal activity, it makes sense for them to be so capable and involved.

Alright, confession time: this book was slightly terrifying because I am very easily scared by anything to do with ghost stories, and horror in general. I thought it would be okay because this is middle grade…..but it was still lowkey pretty scary and I couldn't read it at night bc of my overactive and paranoid imagination. (Disclaimer: I am extremely susceptible to anything scary, so anyone else who reads this will probably be fine.) Regardless of its scary-ness, I still loved this, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book in the series!
Profile Image for Jody .
201 reviews133 followers
October 24, 2018
What a fun and hauntingly great time this was. I decided to try Jonathan Stroud's The Screaming Staircase for one of my Spooktacular Halloween reads. After finishing this first book, I may just have to read the entire series right away.

The setting is London, England and this is not the London we know today. For the last 50 years there has been a problem with ghosts and hauntings. This has been named easily enough The Problem. See the thing about ghosts in this world is they can only be seen by kids or young adults. Once a person reaches adulthood they can no longer see or sense ghosts. So, the only people left to tackle the ghost problem are the younger generation.

In steps our main character and ghost psychic Lucy Carlyle. Lucy has the ability to hear ghosts and she also can sense their emotions at times. This is knows as Talent. Most children are born with a Talent, but they may be sensitive to sight or touch. There are many agencies set up throughout London that employ children and adult supervisors that specialize in fighting The Problem with the ghosts. Lucy is the newest member of the smallest agency known as Lockwood & Co. The agency is made up of 3 employees: Anthony Lockwood, George Cubbins, and Lucy Carlyle.

The story follows Lucy, Lockwood, and George on their ghost fighting adventures. There are plenty of creepy moments, close calls, and intense scenes. Also, a surprising twist I didn't catch until the last minute. The story was a mixture of ghost hunting and murder mystery, and the two were intertwined very well.

Mr. Stroud did a great job with the terminology and atmosphere of the book. The terms like creeping fear, dark specter, and raw-bones help give the story an ominous feel. The book is geared more toward middle grade readers, but it was really good for some creepy moments while reading at night.

The Screaming Staircase was exactly what I was looking for in a October/Halloween read. Great story, great characters, and most of all spook factor. I highly recommend this book to readers of all ages.

4 stars ****
Profile Image for Juli.
1,879 reviews473 followers
October 26, 2018
London has been plagued by ghosts for more than half a century. Those with hauntings turn to psychic investigator agencies to help them. Several such agencies operate in London. Lucy Carlyle came to London in hopes of joining a prestigious agency to fight the spirits. But....she ended up at the low end of the industry. Lockwood & Company is the smallest and most beleaguered agency in the city. In fact, the company has one last chance to prove itself, or be defunct. Their last chance is a doozy -- spend the night in one of the most haunted residences in London and come out alive.

Can they do it?

I'm not going to give away much of the plot....no spoilers from me. But I will say the story moves at a steady pace. The action and scares are wonderfully fun. The humor is witty and the characters engaging. This book was just fun to read, especially now that the weather is cooling down and I'm starting to think Halloween-y thoughts. This was a nice book to kick off the fright season. :)

The Screaming Staircase is a great start to the Lockwood & Company series. Witty humor, scary ghosts, and mysteries to solve -- a great mix for a middle grade book series! There are currently four books in the series, with a fifth book, The Empty Grave, coming out soon. My 6th grader wanted to read something scary this Fall leading up to Halloween. I'm definitely steering him towards this series. I think he will love it! Nice mix of humor and scary. :) A fun read for any age....I'm definitely going to read the rest of the series. :)

For more information on author Jonathan Stroud and his books, check out his website: http://www.jonathanstroud.com/
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