I really should know better than to stay up late reading a ghost story, even one for kids. Really. But I did it anyway, finishing The Screaming Staircase after midnight and then creeping down the hall to bed using my iphone as a nightlight.

Screaming Staircase coverIn an alternative present-day England plagued by “the Problem” – a national epidemic of ghost manifestations resulting in dusk curfews and an entire manufacturing industry for iron weapons and charms  – Lucy, Lockwood, and George are a pre-teen team of ghost busters. In their world, only children are able to clearly see and hear ghosts, which means the front line of defense against the Problem is a national force of agents under the age of 15.

Lockwood, with Lucy and George, runs an independent investigative agency. Determined to succeed on their own, without the adult supervision required by most agencies, the Lockwood team charges headlong into an investigation in a suburban London house, where they meet a far more aggressive and dangerous ghost than they expected. The situation gets more complicated when Lucy is compelled to find out just what happened to create such a furious apparition.

Although I figured out who the villain was a little earlier than I would have liked, The Screaming Staircase kept me up past my curfew and made me painfully aware of shadows and cold drafts in corners. Interfering grown-ups and malicious spirits keep Lucy and her friends on their toes, but it’s the creepiness of Lucy’s ghostly nemesis that kept my hair on end.