Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood and Co. Book 1: The Screaming Staircase is a great mix of mystery and ghost story. Boasting an opinionated and talented heroine, Lucy Carlyle, who could be Sammy Keyes British cousin, this story is set in a world where ghosts (called Visitors) have taken over the night and wrought havoc all over London. Of course, only children can see and therefore fight these Visitors. As the book opens, we find Lucy recounting her time at Lockwood and Co., the only ghost-fighting company to operate completely without adult supervision. Lucy is joined by Lockwood, a cocky but somewhat mysterious kid who owns a house and a collection of ghost-hunting implements from around the world, and George, who excels at research and demolishing donuts.
Like Stroud’s Bartimaeus series, this book excels at witty one-liners, feats of derring-do, and a flippant tone that Han Solo would admire. The world Stroud places his characters in is complete, believable, and detailed, and the plot is well thought out and exciting. The tone of Stroud’s writing makes this book perfect for the sardonic world of middle school and early high school, as does its extensive vocabulary and somewhat morbid subject matter.
Readers who enjoyed Sammy Keyes but now need something more difficult would enjoy this, as would Harry Potter fans and refugees from Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. And if you've read the Bartimaeus Trilogy and haven't already got this book on your list, well, you can imagine what the old djinni would have to say about THAT.