by Libby Bray
Rating: 3&1/2 Stars
‘It’s 1920s New York City. It’s flappers and Follies, jazz and gin. It’s after the war but before the depression. And for certain group of bright young things it’s the opportunity to party like never before.
For Evie O’Neill, it’s escape. She’s never fit in in small town Ohio and when she causes yet another scandal, she’s shipped off to stay with an uncle in the big city. But far from being exile, this is exactly what she’s always wanted: the chance to show how thoroughly modern and incredibly daring she can be.
But New York City isn’t about just jazz babies and follies girls. It has a darker side. Young women are being murdered across the city. And these aren’t crimes of passion. They’re gruesome. They’re planned. They bear a strange resemblance to an obscure group of tarot cards. And the New York City police can’t solve them alone.
Evie wasn’t just escaping the stifling life of Ohio, she was running from the knowledge of what she could do. She has a secret. A mysterious power that could help catch the killer – if he doesn’t catch her first….’
I’m a bit torn on this one – one of the reasons why it’s taken me this long to review it. I think I like it and I certainly read it quickly but there were definitely areas that bothered me. In part, I think this is because of it’s precarious balance between genres – at times it’s a mystery, at times it’s a supernatural alternate history and at times it’s out and out slasher horror (not a favourite genre of mine) – that I’m so uncertain about it. Normally I love books that laugh in the face of genre lines, but this one didn’t so much seem to be experimenting with a fusion of genres as it didn’t feel like it could decide what it wanted to be.
Another reason I’ve struggled with this book is that Evie isn’t the most pleasant of characters, she’s manipulative, spoilt and determined to have her own way regardless of whether it is the right thing to do. I often didn’t like her decisions and I definitely didn’t like how she treated her friends. But I was still interested in following her, she had her reasons for acting as she did and I wanted to see her character develop further.
I was also interested in following the wider cast which spirals across a variety of social classes, ethnic groups and abilities. They’ve all got their flaws, their own motivations and backstories and they are all on their own character arcs. They’re all also quite distinct from each other and, by and large, I found them to be credible members of the ‘lost generation’ that was approaching adulthood after the first world war.
The plot felt a bit flimsy in places and in the last few chapters Bray sets up a love triangle that just doesn’t fit with the story and seemed to cheapen the successes that had gone before. (I’m probably naturally prejudiced against this, as love triangles are number one on my pet peeves).
There are a lot of things I enjoyed. I liked the undercurrents of something bigger going on, the hints at Evie’s Uncle’s past, her brother’s actions in the war and the elements of local folklore. I especially loved the museum.
I suppose the issue at the heart of it is that the book feels a bit like a standalone that spawned into a sequel at the end. It seemed to be heading towards closure but by the final few there were loose ends all over the place. I’ve got the sequel from the library, so I will give that a go at some point as I am interested as to where this is going to go.