Hazardous Spirits

Tin House. Oct. 2023. 384p. ISBN 9781959030133. pap. $17.95. F
In 1920s Scotland, the ordinary life of young wife Evelyn is upended when her husband, Robert, claims he can communicate with spirits. Evelyn believes that Robert may be going mad, but when his apparent skill catches the eye of prominent spiritualists, he joins forces with child medium Clarence, and they’re soon swept into a glittering world populated by aristocrats and war heroes. As Evelyn sees how Robert can comfort grieving families with his spirit readings, her skepticism fades to grudging belief. Evelyn is dazzled by their improved social standing and supports Robert, despite the rift it causes with her very proper family, until a series of disturbing events force her to question what, or who, can ever really be known. Salam (Things Bright and Beautiful; Belladonna) deftly renders a historic Edinburgh still reeling from the trauma of World War I and a pandemic that killed so many. This book is, in turn, both a moving exploration of collective grief and wryly funny.
VERDICT Readers of gothic mysteries, historical fiction, and domestic drama will all find satisfaction within Salam’s atmospheric, layered world.
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