More luridly gothic deeds and schemes, set near the locales of the author’s Eyeball Collector (2009), Bone Magician (2008) and Black Book of Secrets (2007).
The prosperous town of Oppum Oppidulum, the deep and cold adjacent Lake Beluarum and the Asylum for the Peculiar and Bizarre that sits on an island in said lake all hold horrifying secrets. Young Rex discovers this when his father is confined to the Asylum after suddenly going mad and eating his own hand—to the open glee of Rex’s sinister new stepmother Acantha Grammaticus. Higgins trots Rex himself out to the misty island, where he is befriended by a deaf, young freak-show contortionist, nearly falls under the spell of a hypnotic con artist out to harvest the diamonds scattered thickly on the lake’s bottom and uncovers a number of hideous secrets on the way to a climax that brings just deserts for some and tragic twists of fate for others. Strewing her narrative with dark hints, obscure clues, assorted lunatics and, in particular, both macabre cuisine and a panoply of noxious or tantalizingly evocative odors, the author contrives a highly atmospheric experience.
Readers with strong stomachs and a taste for melodramatic narratives bedizened with words like “tenebrous” and “mephitic” will devour this yarn with relish. So to speak. (Gothic fantasy. 11-13)