by Libba Bray
First sentence: “In the town house at a fashionable address on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, every lamp blazes.”
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Content: There wasn’t any language (at least that I noticed), and there was only illusions to sex. What puts this in the Teen (grades 9 and up) section of the library is the violence. There are 5 gruesome murders, spouse abuse, and other assorted violence. And then there’s the whole occult/creep factor, not to mention the teenage drinking. However, I’d give it to a 12- or 13-year-old if they weren’t overly sensitive.
Evie hates her small-town Ohio life. She’s a modern ’20s woman, and hates being shackled, especially by her Prohibition-supporting mother. So, when Evie makes big blunder with her talent for “reading” objects — she accuses the town’s Golden Boy with knocking up a maid — and she’s shipped off to Manhattan to stay with her admittedly odd uncle, she’s more than happy. She’s thrilled: finally, her life can Begin!
But while Evie makes some good friends, and goes to a couple of thrilling events, things aren’t all coming up roses. There’s a serial killer out there, brutally murdering people and leaving occult signs on the bodies. Her uncle — who runs the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult — has gotten involved with the investigation into the murders, and Evie, being the Modern Woman that she is, weasels her way into that. Which brings a whole mess of problems.
One of the strengths and weaknesses of Bray’s book is that Evie’s isn’t the only story. Bray is weaving a huge tapestry here, with multiple story lines that weave in and out of each other. She’s setting up a huge confrontation, of which the murders only play a small part, but I didn’t mind because the characters themselves were so engaging. To the tortured Ziegfeld star Theta, to the daughter of union supporters Mable, to the charismatic thief Sam, to the tortured Jericho, to the African American bookie runner Memphis, they were all characters I wanted to spend time with and get to know. But in many ways, there was almost too much. The book comes in at nearly 600 pages, and it’s only a first in a series. That’s a lot of set-up going there. And while the overall plot line — the murders — gets resolved, the last 40 pages are spent setting up the next book, which dampened my enthusiasm for it.
But dampened isn’t a dislike. There really is so much to love about this one, from the creepy to the characters.