The Screaming Staircase is a book by Jonathan Stroud, who wrote the excellent and fun Bartimaeus Trilogy. Published in 2013, this is the first in a new series, called Lockwood & Co., set in an alternate history of England in which ghosts and other spectres have turned out to manifest themselves. As young people are more susceptible to hauntings, they are trained to hunt down and capture or destroy these 'Problems'. The story begins in an action packed example of this, in which a boy and girl almost burned a house down after ascertaining the cause of a recent haunting. The ramifications of this lead to them and another boy who make up their private investigating team called to take care of a problem in a haunted mansion containing a Red Room and the staircase of the title.

This book is freaking scary in spite of the Scooby gang set-up and an obvious bad-guy. Rivers of blood, mad monks, tappings in the walls and swooping angry wraiths all pose danger that is off-set by the triangle of emotions the investigating trio have for each other.

One interesting aspect is the time the book is set: while not blatantly said, it appears to be set in the 'present time', with the 'Problems' beginning in the 1950s. The only clues to this is a computer in a corner, and one characters use of a mobile phone: technology has been slowed by the resurgence of an Iron Age (iron being useful in protection from the ghosts). Fashion and design seems to be stuck in the 50's, with the pop-culture explosion of the 60's and 70s never having occurred, due to young people's recruitment in fighting the haunts.

I raced through the book, reading it on glowing kindle pages before sleeping, or not sleeping as the case turned out, listening to branches scraping windows, seeing the dripping shadows on moonlit curtains, and pulling my duvet closer around me against the dropping temperature.

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