Hot Stew

Algonquin. Apr. 2021. 320p. ISBN 9781643751559. $26.95. F
Mozley’s sophomore novel (after 2017’s Elmet) parses the relationships between inheritance and wealth, gentrification and squalor, men and women. Agatha Howard is a millionaire with loads of London properties inherited from a father with questionable business ethics. Her current focus is on the redevelopment of a dilapidated Soho building populated by a colorful group of sex workers, sex traffickers, and small-time gangsters. Their microcosm reflects the sharp contrasts between life on the edge of poverty and the wealth of the clients who seek their services. Agatha, on the other hand, seems more interested in her social life, her Borzoi, and the relationship between her husband and her mother. Rumors of eviction ramp up; the residents do not intend to go quietly. As Agatha’s plans progress, the tenants stage protests in the streets, her siblings come out of the woodwork wanting pieces of the action, and locals with political aspirations take sides, in a contemporary tale of morals, money, and mischief.
VERDICT With tinges of Tom Jones, this is a seriously entertaining romp through one of London’s most historic districts, alongside a band of resilient have-nots who are determined to win out over an entitled heiress.
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