Kelpie sees ghosts.
An orphaned street urchin in the slums of 1932 Sydney, she has learned to survive not only the ill intent of the living, but also the machinations of the bored dead, who stir up trouble for their own entertainment. Weakened by hunger, she lets a malicious shade lead her astray, catapulting her straight into a crisis that, like a carnival ride, will both thrill and nauseate readers. Along the way, she is alternately helped and foiled by her fellow inhabitants of Razorhurst, including femme fatale Dymphna Campbell, who coped with the trauma of her early life by refashioning herself as the city’s most expensive prostitute. Dymphna’s recently deceased paramour and protector, Jimmy Palmer, hounds the pair through the city, offering both good and bad advice as they try to escape the clutches of the two competing crime bosses on their trail. Straight from the opening lines, the suspenseful narrative is both dizzying and illuminating as it rotates among the characters, giving a nearly 360-degree perspective on the life-threatening mess that Kelpie and Dymphna find themselves in. Characters both living and dead reveal crucial pieces of the plot slowly over the course of one harrowing day.
Larbalestier pulls no punches with the gruesome, gory details about the violence of poverty, and the result is a dark, unforgettable and blood-soaked tale of outlaws and masterminds. (glossary, author’s note) (Historical suspense. 14 & up)