Blogging about books definitely has its perks. One happens to be getting an early peek at my favorite authors' latest releases, before the general public. Thanks to rockstar librarian Rose Brock (she of the Coppell Middle School West fame), I was able to read an ARC of THE DIVINERS (Little, Brown 2012) by the incomparable Libba Bray (she of the Gemma Doyle trilogy, Printz award-winning GOING BOVINE, and BEAUTY QUEENS fame).
*insert squee here
Being a mother, creative director, writer, and pseudo runner has its perks, too -- sadly, much time to read isn't one of them. However, there is a silver lining about how long it took me to get through the 608 pages that is THE DIVINERS. And that was getting to spend as much time as possible savoring it.
After the satire of her last two books, Bray's new trilogy (UPDATE: this is a 4-book series, not a trilogy. My bad on that. But YAY!!!!!!) returns to a mystical history, this time, New York City during the 1920s. Her setting has a luscious texture that puts atmosphere in your ears and scents in your nose. Quintessential razor-sharp dialogue, so pos-i-TOOT-ly perfect, you'll feel like you're watching one of those new-fangled "talking picture shows." Thick under cover of the prohibition era, the Big Apple thrums to life blissfully unaware that the end days may be just around the corner. The spirit of a serial killer has come back to town and if everything goes his way, he'll not only be staying, he'll be running the gin joint.
More than a trip back in time, more than a ghost story, THE DIVINERS also shows that teenagers 100 years ago weren't all that different than they are today -- they just had different ways of finding trouble. And for this group of kids with special powers, the return of the aptly named Naughty John (whose constant crooning of his namesake song is downright Stephen King creepy) provides plenty of trouble. The rebellious Evie O'Neill has a gift for seeing into other people's secrets — a party trick that's raised too many eyebrows back home in Ohio so she's sent to live with her uncle Will in NYC. Will happens to run The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult, aka The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies, a place that houses and attracts a rather other worldly crowd, perfect for Evie and her secret talent.
Soon Evie is hanging out with Zeigfield girls, hitting the speakeasies with the frustratingly adorable thief Sam, and helping her uncle investigate the occult aspects some horrific murders. Evie isn't the only one with powers that might help crack the case — there's something strange about her uncle's assistant, Jericho, and Sam seems to have incredible luck avoiding arrest. Bray weaves their stories with that of Memphis, Theta and Henry, as the kids find themselves drawn to each other to stop Naughty John.
Brutal and shiver-inducing, heart-breaking and snarky, THE DIVINERS introduces Bray's ensemble, painting each character in tender, caring strokes. As with the Gemma Doyle trilogy, she captures the spooky essence of the time period, its tone swinging effortlessly between devil-may-care flapper to pure evil.
Here's to hoping I'm lucky enough to snag myself an early copy of book 2 when ARCs become available. Because any longer will be just too long to wait.