A Rogue Librarian's Reading List

{June 12, 2012}   The Diviners by Libba Bray

Plot: When Evie touches something, she can glimpse the owner’s secrets. But after she reveals a shameful secret about the town’s golden boy at a drunken party, her whole family’s reputation is threatened. Her parents send her to stay with her bachelor uncle in Manhattan until the scandal blows over. It is meant as a punishment but Evie can only think of shops, speakeasies and a reunion with her friend Mabel. Instead she, and several other young New Yorkers with powers such as her own, find themselves caught up in a string of gruesome, mystical murders.

This review is based on an ARC received at BEA 2012.

Another eagerly awaited book that far exceeded my expectations! The Diviners reminded me a bit of The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson. The two novels take place in different countries and time periods but both are about girls with supernatural powers helping to solve gastly murders involving ghosts. So if you liked the mystery and the supernatural in Johnson’s book, you will surely like this one as well.

But that is where the similarities end. Bray’s novel takes place in the roaring twenties, in the world of flappers, jazz and prohibition. Bray brings this world to vivid life; I could almost hear the music, smell the smoke. Evie fits right into this world (as she never did in her home town): she is a true modern girl in the endless pursuit of fun, of life. She can be selfish and careless, too much as her parents and peers call her, but she is ever clever, a pleasure to be around and anything but ordinary.

Indeed most of the characters have hidden depths. There are too many to go into great detail: Harlem poet and healer, Memphis; Ziegfield girl, Theta and her “brother” Henry; Evie’s scholarly uncle Will and mysterious assistant Jericho; Mabel, a subdued girl and the daughter of socialists. And then there is Sam. My friends say I like a scoundrel and I must admit that it’s true: though he is a thief and a liar, I cannot resist Sam. He always puts a smile on my face. It’s truly a wonderful cast and I wasn’t eager to leave them.

The mystery will, meanwhile, send a chill down your spine. The murders are terribly gruesome and seem almost inevitable: the murderer is always a step ahead of the protagonists. Bray keeps raising the stakes, no one seems safe. I can still hear the murderer’s eerie little rhyme “Naughty John, Naughty John, does his work with his apron on…” I might have nightmares. 😉

The Diviners will be released in September 2012 by Little, Brown.

2012 (#57)


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