Curious Toys

Mulholland: Little, Brown. Oct. 2019. 382p. ISBN 9780316485883. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780316485890. M
Two years ago, Pin’s mother put her in boy’s clothes so she would be “safe.” Now 14 and still in disguise, Pin lives with her fortune-teller mother on the edge of ­Chicago’s Riverview Amusement Park. She hangs out with a gang of boys and runs reefers from a sideshow performer to a screenwriter at Essanay movie studios. During the hot summer of 1915, she witnesses a man and a young girl enter the Hell Gate ride—but only he exits. Pin questions what she sees, but another observer, “batty” outsider artist Henry Darger, saw the same thing. Initially wary, the two work together to catch a twisted killer. Genre-spanning, award-winning Hand (“Cass Neary” series) once again works the dark side of the street, writing from multiple points of view and skillfully misdirecting readers’ attention. The historical details are fantastic, as are several cameos by real-life figures besides Darger. When readers reach the end of this thrilling adventure, they’ll see how every choice has been perfectly made. ­
VERDICT Hand is a mage of the page. The gritty mise-en-scène and realistically portrayed characters in her novel will enchant those who like tough-girl protagonists and antiheroes, as well as fans of historical crime fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 3/25/19.]

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