Tripping Arcadia

Dutton. Feb. 2022. 368p. ISBN 9780593185209. $26. HORROR
DEBUT Opening ominously with the narrator, Lena, confessing to her part in the downfall of a powerful family and their empire, this lush and dark debut satisfyingly pulls back and then spirals à la Wuthering Heights or The Great Gatsby. Lena is a medical school dropout who spent the last few years in Italy working for her botanist aunt while figuring out her future; now she’s called back home to Boston to help out after her father is injured and laid off. A cryptic job ad, to be the physician’s assistant to the personal doctor of one of the world’s richest and most gossiped-about families, leads Lena into a world of extreme decadence, alienating her from friends and family but also opening the door for her to use her knowledge about plants to cause havoc. Lena is sympathetic, and her admission of guilt from the outset increases the tension and pacing of this detail-rich story. Readers will cringe when she makes poor choices but they’ll also be glued to the page as this salacious tale of family drama, corporate dealings, dangerous secrets, and poison unfolds.
VERDICT A 21st-century Gothic with a fascinating botanical frame and an escalating sense of dread that will be savored by fans of Mexican Gothic, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Now You’re One of Us, by Asa Nonami, and Creatures of Will and Temper, by Molly Tanzer.
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