The Screaming Staircase: Lockwood & Co., Book 1

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Screaming Staircase: Lockwood & Co., Book 1 Book Poster Image
Exciting ghost-hunter series start is very, very scary.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 7 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Some references to Shakespeare and places in London. Also, there's plenty of common and not-so-common ghost lore to compare with other books and movies about haunted places.

Positive Messages

There's plenty here about learning to trust your instincts and having confidence in your abilities. Also, bravery and not giving in to fear are essential for survival in the ghost-catching business.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lucy, Anthony Lockwood, and George are clearly very brave and resourceful to survive their dangerous profession. Anthony's very proud and full of bravado -- it helps keep him in business, but also gets him and his colleagues into trouble. Lucy's just discovering how talented she is and must learn to trust her instincts.


The haunted scares and the descriptions of how the now-deceased, or "Visitors," died are worse than the actual injuries the trio get ghost hunting. Although there's always fear of being "ghost-touched," which causes painful swelling and then death if not treated right away. Main characters have close calls with cruel spirits (some super-creepy descriptions involving skeletal remains, curling long toenails, and blood dripping all over a room), a raging fire they must jump out a building to escape, and live people wielding guns, rapiers, and fists. Stories of other ghost hunters (all kids because only kids have "the Sight") dying on the job, two in the house Lockwood & Co. are sent to investigate and all of Lucy's young colleagues before she moved to London. A mention that Anthony's parents are probably deceased and left him the house, and that Lucy's distant father fell under a train and died. The ghosts being hunted died in many violent ways over the centuries: hangings, drownings, mass killings, torture, sacrifices, fire, murder, and much more.


Mentions of a tumultuous relationship and lost love.


"Hell," "hellish," "screwy," and talk of cursing without the words used (Lucy says, "The curse I gave would probably have curdled the milk if it hadn't been sitting out on the table for thirty-six hours already.")


One mention of Coke.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One room in a haunted house smelled of whiskey and tobacco, and Lucy remembers her father's breath smelling of "strong brown beer." Lucy's first employer smoked heavily.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the publisher's recommended age for Jonathan Stroud's The Screaming Staircase is 8-12, but this nearly 400-page ghost-hunting mystery feels like a better fit for kids just getting into young adult literature: 11 and up. And readers must like scary stuff, or forget them sleeping in their own room with the lights off for quite some time. The main young-teen characters in The Screaming Staircase are very resourceful, very brave ghost hunters (only kids have "the Sight") and inhabit a world where ghosts are nearly everywhere, putting people in danger every night (a "ghost-touch" is painful and can be fatal). There are some super-creepy descriptions involving skeletal remains and a ghost making it appear that blood's dripping all over the room. As it gets darker, the presence and malevolence of ghosts get stronger and one of the characters has a sense of how and why particular ghosts died (always violently). The teen ghost hunters are threatened by the living as well, encountering rapiers, fists, and gunfire. All other content is pretty mild, with language no stronger than "hellish" and "screwy."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byParchau10 June 2, 2021

Very scary

Only for adults into gothic genres
Adult Written byNoah N. January 12, 2017

lockwood and co

Scary and has teen language
Teen, 14 years old Written byqueenofdragons October 16, 2019

The Epitome of Good Writing

I love this so much. Honestly, this is probably my favorite series, for a number of reasons. Lucy Carlyle is a strong, well rounded protagonist who is believabl... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byamirakh523 August 27, 2014

Lockwood Review

My second favorite series; second to Skullduggery Pleasant! I love how it is about ghost hunting and takes place in England. I find it interesti... Continue reading

What's the story?

Right after Lucy gets a job as a ghost-hunting agent with Lockwood & Co., things start to go pretty wrong. She and her new boss, Anthony Lockwood, accidentally set fire to a client's house when they forget their protective iron chains and are forced to fight off a dangerous Type 2 Visitor with Greek Fire to save their lives. The owners want them to pay up, or else their three-person agency -- the only one in London run completely by teens -- will get shut down immediately. As Lockwood looks for a way to make some quick money, Lucy and her special talent for understanding ghosts' thoughts comes in handy. Before their client's house goes up in flames, she learns that it's the site of a murder unsolved for 50 years. Lockwood takes the story to the press and, bingo, a new, high-profile client comes knocking. He'll pay their debts, but only if they spend the night in the most haunted place imaginable, an ancient monastery famous for a certain Screaming Staircase.

Is it any good?

Get out your iron chains and metal filings and lavender and whatever other ghost wards you can think of before you open THE SCREAMING STAIRCASE: This is scary stuff! And great fun for kids who are really ready for it. (Not 8-year-olds -- geez, publishers. This is not Goosebumps. And that's definitely a compliment.) Rooms look like they're oozing blood, ghosts with curling toenails come at teens ready to give them the dreaded "ghost-touch," and, yes, a staircase really screams in a super creepy old monastery. Let's all stay the night!

Even without the scares all the other elements are there to make a fabulous mystery. Mainly the three teen ghost hunters; all very talented, especially Lucy, who narrates. And there's Lockwood, full of pride, smarts, cheeky remarks, and bravado, giving off a definite Sherlock Holmes vibe. You never know what's going to happen with the dreaded locket until the end, and they never even get to the source of the Problem: why is the world suddenly full of dangerous Visitors? Readers will have to throw on the iron chains and crack open the sequel to find out.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about being scared. Did you ever have to put this book down at night? What makes it scary? Is there anyone in your family who doesn't like scary stories?

  • If you had Lucy's or Anthony's talents and your town faced "the Problem," would you take their dangerous job? How do their skills help them overcome their on-the-job fears?

  • The Screaming Staircase is the first in a series. What do you think will happen next? How do you think "the Problem" started?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and the undead

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