cover image The Screaming Staircase

The Screaming Staircase

Jonathan Stroud. Disney-Hyperion, $16.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-4231-6491-3

In what has come to be called “the Problem,” the British Isles have become plagued with ghostly Visitors in this highly entertaining first book in Stroud’s Lockwood & Co. series. Since children and young teenagers are most able to sense the ghosts, psychically gifted youths are employed by agencies large and small, and use iron chains, magnesium flares, and salt bombs to contain and dispatch the Visitors. Narrator Lucy Carlyle has moved to London following a ghost-hunting mission gone very wrong, and her luck improves when she joins a small, independent outfit run by the dashing Anthony Lockwood and his studious and exasperating (to Lucy) partner, George Cubbins. Stroud (the Bartimaeus series) shows his customary flair for blending deadpan humor with thrilling action, and the fiery interplay among the three agents of Lockwood & Co. invigorates the story (along with no shortage of creepy moments). Stroud plays with ghost story conventions along the way, while laying intriguing groundwork that suggests that the Problem isn’t the only problem these young agents will face in books to come—the living can be dangerous, too. Ages 8–12. (Sept.)