The Shoemaker’s Magician

Agora. (Chicago Saga, Bk. 2). Mar. 2023. 306p. ISBN 9781957957104. $27.99. HORROR
Bass, a homicide detective in Chicago, is called to a brutal murder on the stage of the Chicago Theater, where the body was laid out with a poster for a famous occult film. Bass’s wife, Polly, a horror-movie expert, is writing her dissertation on Chicago’s most elusive and famous horror host, Grand. Polly, the daughter of immigrants and a survivor of child abuse, has always found comfort in horror movies and magick, and she has passed her love on to her son Bela. But someone else is sharing dark stories with Bela, ominous fables that seem to connect the murder to his family, the history of horror films, and Chicago’s deteriorating movie palaces. Crafting a tale that fascinates and frightens, International Latino Book Award–winning and Bram Stoker Award–nominated poet/novelist Pelayo (Children of Chicago; Into the Forest and All the Way Through) writes an enchanting mix of Chicago history, folklore, and haunting atmosphere, anchored by a strong female protagonist.
VERDICT A gripping story filled with ghosts, mystery, and history, this novel has many excellent entry points for a wide range of readers, but especially for those who enjoy creepy retellings of western folklore, as written by authors like Helen Oyeyemi, and books about occult movies, such as Experimental Film by Gemma Files.
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