Historic detail and mythic folklore forge a scary, thrilling vision of life along America's margins.

CREATURES OF PASSAGE

In which late-1970s Washington, D.C., is reimagined as an enchanted land populated by changelings, phantoms, seers, waking nightmares, and at least one haunted car.

Yejidé follows up her debut, Time of the Locust (2014), with a deeper, broader, and more audacious immersion in magical realism. It is set in 1977, and the District of Columbia is here labeled "the capital" and is surrounded by the Kingdoms of Maryland and Virginia, which are in turn parts of the “united territories” presided over by a succession of elected kings. In the city’s Anacostia section, “an isle of blood and desire…where all things lived and died on the edges of time and space and meaning,” Nephthys Kinwell operates a kind of supernatural jitney service, showing up, at times unbidden, in her rickety Plymouth Belvedere to take the community’s lonely, wayward, or forsaken wherever they want to go. Even through the car’s rattling, her passengers can hear the ghost of a White woman tapping or shifting around in the trunk. But apparently everybody living in this alternate universe is accustomed to dead people hanging around the neighborhood. Among the more restless of those spirits is Osiris, Nephthys’ twin brother, pursuing revenge on the White racists who murdered him and dumped his body in the Anacostia River. He's worried about his daughter, Amber, who's visited by dreams of the near future and regularly submits her obliquely worded prophecies to the local Black newspaper. Meanwhile, Amber’s young son, Dash, is also seeing things: a “make-believe man" by the river and, worse, a not-so-make-believe act of molestation he witnessed by accident in a school utility closet; he’s sure he’s spoken to the former while he’s still not certain he saw the latter. But the molester, whose name is Mercy, is certain he saw Dash see him. Before long, both mystic visions and real-life horrors converge into a sequence of disquieting revelations from the past and alarming prospects for calamity in the future unless Nephthys and her own spiritual powers can set in motion the hard, necessary work of placating the dead and rescuing the living.

Historic detail and mythic folklore forge a scary, thrilling vision of life along America's margins.

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Akashic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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