The Dark Stairs (Herculeah Jones Series)

The Dark Stairs (Herculeah Jones Series)

4.3 18
by Betsy Byars

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Mystery is in Herculeah Jones’s blood. How could it not be, with a father on the police force and a mother who’s a private eye? So when Herculeah notices a man hanging around the "Dead Oaks" mansion, she can’t resist doing some investigating of her own. Legend has it the old estate was the site of a murder, and now it looks like there’s


Mystery is in Herculeah Jones’s blood. How could it not be, with a father on the police force and a mother who’s a private eye? So when Herculeah notices a man hanging around the "Dead Oaks" mansion, she can’t resist doing some investigating of her own. Legend has it the old estate was the site of a murder, and now it looks like there’s something even more nefarious going on. Can Herculeah crack the case before the mystery man closes in on her?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Given a policeman for a father and a private investigator for a mother, could 13-year-old Herculeah Jones be anything but a sleuth? Drafting her neighbor and sometimes reluctant sidekick, Meat, she sets out to uncover the mystery of the decaying mansion known as Dead Oaks, eventually finding the body from a long-ago murder and correctly concluding that a particularly disconcerting client of her mother's is to blame. With her eye for telling detail and her penchant for strong, quirky characters, the Newbery Medalist spices her narrative with equal measures of suspense and humor (for example, Herculeah's father, with his chronically rumpled jacket and loose tie, looks ``not like a detective, but like a man who was lost''). Herculeah, as strong and dauntless as her name suggests, emerges as a distinctive and engaging heroine. The conclusion may not be altogether satisfying--Herculeah literally stumbles across the body, instead of reasoning out its location, and the pivotal figure of the murderer remains shadowy. These quibbles notwithstanding, Herculeah's adventures are sure to entertain, and hints of a sequel are heartening. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Gisela Jernigan
It was Friday the 13th, and when she looked at the spooky, deserted mansion, nicknamed Dead Oaks, Herculeah Jones' hair began to frizzle. This was a sure sign that something, probably something dangerous, was about to happen. But, with a policeman father and a private investigator mother, the prospect of danger was not something to dampen the adventurous spirit of a brave, feisty 13-year-old. Young mystery fans should enjoy her investigations, aided by her friend Matt, a burly but cautious neighbor boy.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-7-Move over Nancy Drew, Herculeah Jones has arrived! Strong and agile, she lives up to her name and seems capable of solving any case that comes her way; with a private investigator mother and a police detective father, she has a natural interest in mysterious situations. In this first volume of what is sure to be a popular series, Herculeah becomes fascinated with a forbidding estate and a frightening-looking client of her mother's. She capitalizes on her contact in the police department (her father) and listens to her mother's recorded interviews with her client; by refusing to follow rules set by her parents when she is driven to get closer to the truth, she succeeds in closing a case. She escapes after being locked in a dark and musty basement and discovers a hidden staircase, at the bottom of which lays the long-missing, dead owner of Dead Oaks. Byars has created a likable cast of main characters. Herculeah's friend Meat serves as the perfect comic foil for her intensity; he seems as if he could be a first cousin to Bingo Brown. There is plenty to laugh at in this book, including classic chapter headings guaranteed to cause shivers for the uninitiated; practiced mystery readers may feel that they are in on a bit of a joke and appreciate the hint of parody. This is a page-turner that is sure to entice the most reluctant readers.-Ellen Fader, Oregon State Library, Salem

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Herculeah Jones Series
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.37(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Betsy Byars began her writing career rather late in life. "In all of my school years, . . . not one single teacher ever said to me, 'Perhaps you should consider becoming a writer,'" Byars recalls. "Anyway, I didn't want to be a writer. Writing seemed boring. You sat in a room all day by yourself and typed. If I was going to be a writer at all, I was going to be a foreign correspondent like Claudette Colbert in Arise My Love. I would wear smashing hats, wisecrack with the guys, and have a byline known round the world. My father wanted me to be a mathematician." So Byars set out to become mathematician, but when she couldn't grasp calculus in college, she turned to English. Even then, writing was not on her immediate horizon.

First, she married and started a family. The writing career didn't emerge until she was 28, a mother of two children, and living in a small place she called the barracks apartment, in Urbana, Illinois. She and her husband, Ed, had moved there in 1956 so he could attend graduate school at the University of Illinois. She was bored, had no friends, and so turned to writing to fill her time. Byars started writing articles for The Saturday Evening Post, Look,and other magazines. As her family grew and her children started to read, she began to write books for young people and, fortunately for her readers, discovered that there was more to being a writer than sitting in front of a typewriter.

"Making up stories and characters is so interesting that I'm never bored. Each book has been a different writing experience. It takes me about a year to write a book, but I spend another year thinking about it, polishing it, and making improvements. I always put something of myself intomy books — something that happened to me. Once a wanderer came by my house and showed me how to brush my teeth with a cherry twig; that went in The House of Wingscopyright © 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.

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The Dark Stairs 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I did not read this on my Nook, but it was one of the best books I ever read!!!!!!!!!!!
Emily Breiten More than 1 year ago
This is the best book ever. I read it and could not put it down. It was hard to sleep one night because it got scarry. I felt like i was watching CSI. This is a must read book. If you dont like mysteries or sort of scary things, then this is not a book for you. But it is a book for me!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Herculeah Jones loves to solve mysteries. One day she sees her dad across the street at a supposedly abandoned house called Dead Oaks, she decides to go see him and as she walked across the street her hair starts to frizzle meaning danger is near as she approached the house. She asks her father why he is there and he says he has always been fascinated with the house. Later that day Herculeah¿s friend Meat meets her outside her house and tells her not go inside because a scary man went inside with her mom. Herculeah¿s mom is a private investigator and has clients all the time so Herculeah goes in for herself to see who this scary man was. The man she saw was horrifying and his breath stunk, her mother had a I want him out of here look on her face. Later the man they called the Moloch and Herculeah¿s mom were gone Herculeah and her friend Meat listened to the interview her mom and the Moloch had on the tape recorder. They find out that that the Moloch is the son of the man who lived in Dead Oaks and he is insane and he wants Herculeah¿s mom to find his dead dad in the house. This book is a great mystery and I would recommend it. I like this book because it is scary. When Herculeah and Meat listened to the tape recorder the Moloch said that his father blamed him for his mother falling down some stairs and dying so the Moloch said he always wanted to throw his dad down the stairs. Also when the Moloch locks the basement door Herculeah is locked inside but then she rams the door four times before breaking out. Finally when Herculeah goes inside Dead Oaks and the Moloch and Herculeah¿s mother walk in and Herculeah has nowhere to hide and starts to back up, she falls down the stairs of a closet and lands at the feet of the Moloch¿s father who is dead. I liked this book because Herculeah was brave. She was brave to go down the basement stairs of Dead Oaks even though the Moloch could come into the basement at any minute. Also that she went into her mother¿s office and listened to the interview even though she was not aloud to do it. Finally she went inside Dead Oaks to look around and find clues knowing the Moloch went to the house regularly and could come back. I liked the book because it¿s funny. Herculeah¿s mom named her after a guy in a movie and Meat watched the movie one night and said she was named after a guy in cat mask. Also Meat said if there was a button for scariness on movies he would put it down to low because he gets scared. Meat got his name because it said in the book that there was a lot of him. I thought this was a great book and was a mystery, amazing, and nerve racking. I would recommend it to anyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The comment on the back of the book was mean i like nancy drew books. The comment said Move over Nancy Drew Herculeah has arrived! That comment is so mean. Nancy Drew are my favorite mysterys.
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In the beginning of the book I thought this is not scary at all. But in the end it really thrills you. I recommend this book for people that love scary mystery's.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was really good. & you always wanted to read more.!
Guest More than 1 year ago
¿This man¿s son- Hamilton Crewell¿s son- has hired me to find his father¿s body¿ The book, Dark Stairs, by Betsy Byars, is about a young girl who gets involved in a murder mystery. An unknown man comes to her town and she has a feeling that he has committed a murder. With her detective mom, and a cop as a dad, she uses her skills to detect who killed the old man in Dead Oaks. The book, Dark Stairs, has an interesting plot but it has many parts that are repeated, which makes the story obvious. The book informs you about something in the beginning and then repeats it so much that you can easily guess the ending. For example, the main character¿s friend, Meat, said, ¿Then if he¿s dead and he didn¿t leave, he is still there- somewhere- waiting!¿ 'Page 37'. Meat finds this revealing even though he found it out in the beginning. Another example is when Herculeah¿s father told her, that when she was younger, a man died and was not found. Yet Meat said, ¿The police went through the entire house, but were unable to locate, Mr. Crewell, or any signs of foul play ¿'Page 75'. This makes it obvious that they will have trouble finding the body. Besides, Herculeah did not find a body when she first visited the man¿s house. There are many other examples of obvious events until the end when it repeats every thing all over again. If I had to rate, this book between one to ten, ten being the highest, I would give it a four. The book has a very interesting mystery but all the unnecessary descriptions, lower the book. I would recommend Dark Stairs to the third to fifth grade. I believe that they will see past the details and focus and more on the plot. If you are older and weird, I recommend it to you too. Hope that however reads this book will try enough to forget how obvious it is.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book gives me the chills but it is such a great book. It makes me want to keep on turning the page over and over.Herculeah gets caught in all sorts of situations that are thrilling.The moloch is one of the most intresting suspects and is someone Herculeah runs into over and over.Herculeah also gets involved with mimes,parots,and many other creatures that give her information to crack the case.I encourage you to read and order this book!It's breath taking!You'll love it,I guarentee!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is good because it¿s scary and weird. It¿s scary because the Moloch could probably see through things like drapes and walls. ( By the way a Moloch is an unspeakable monstrsoid). The scariest part is when the Moloch nails the door shut in the chapter The Dark Stairs. The funniest part is in the chapter Hush Money when Meat chickens out of going into the spooky Dead Oaks. I Think that this book is for people who like horror stories because it¿s really creepy. I liked this book because it's creepy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Herculeah and Meat are great. It's a great mystery book. Betsy Byars rules.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Book takes too long to get to the point. Ending was weak. Characters were described well.