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The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud is a scary ghost thriller taking place in London.

Young people have psychic abilities to see ghosts better than grown ups, therefore, they are better equipped to get rid of London’s ghost problem. Ever since the mysterious Problem, London is becoming more and more haunted every day. People have to close up and chain their houses at sunset and aren’t supposed to be out after curfew. This is when the psychic detective agencies come out and try to get rid of the problem one case at a time. There are several big and snooty agencies and Lockwood & Co. are trying to beat these under-skilled and over-publicized agencies to prove themselves to London (and keep food on the table).

Lockwood & Co. is an independent agency, meaning they are not run by any grown up supervision. Anthony Lockwood is in charge and Lucy Carlyle and George work under him. The three a quite a funny and dramatic trio. The three are engaged to work the Combe Carey Hall investigation. It is the most haunted house in England. But when you are fighting ghosts there is a lot of danger. You can get ghost-touched if a spector’s plasma touches your skin. It causes panic, deathly coldness, shock, skin burns, and usually death if you are in contact too long. Combe Carey Hall has a Red Room (which lives up to its name) and the Screaming Staircase.

The three investigate, cut corners, collect salt bombs and are on their way. Lucy is brilliant and can actually communicate with some ghosts, which is virtually unheard of. George is a master researcher. Anthony is the heart throb who has the strength to fight the ghosts and keep the three from squabbling themselves out of a job.

The plot is fast and action-packed while also following a dramatic and hilariously sarcastic internal (and external) dialogue of Lucy, her background, and her overconfidence in her exceptional skills. The plot turns were super satisfying and you never end up guessing them beforehand. The wonderful audio has authentic London accents including the difference between the upper class and working class (with all the snobbery intact).

I reviewed the second book for Booklist and could not get enough. I went back to the first book (The Screaming Staircase) and listened to the whole series through to the end. It is funny, witty and creepy all in one.

Even real straight up ghost stories like Mary Downing Hahn’s can’t compare to this. The closest read alike I can think of is maybe the Night Gardener. The Screaming Staircase makes me want to stay in after curfew and wrap my house in chains (you’ll get it soon enough). Salt bomb anyone?

Book 1: The Screaming Staircase

Book 1.5 (ebook): The Dagger in the Desk

Book 2: The Whispering Skull

Book 3: The Hollow Boy

Book 4: The Creeping Shadow (not out yet!!!)