This third installment in Bray’s speculative historical-fiction series continues to spin the stories of its large ensemble of supernaturally gifted characters in 1920s New York City.
The patients and staff at the fictional Manhattan State Hospital for the Insane (Bray discusses mental illness in an author’s note) are terrorized by murderous ghosts as the novel opens, quickly setting the tone of atmospheric horror that has characterized this epic. This draws in the Diviners, who must confront a menacing otherworldly figure called the King of Crows. The tale is told in two parts, and details of imagined government conspiracies are laced with heartbreakingly realistic injustices such as racism, anti-Semitism, and maltreatment of the mentally ill. The diverse protagonists are intricately developed; poet Memphis and his young brother Isaiah are black; Ling is Chinese and Irish-American, uses leg braces and crutches, and is both demisexual and lesbian; Sam is Jewish; Theta and Evie are white, as is Henry, who is gay. While readers might be surprised that what seems like the lead-up to a showdown between dimensions doesn’t materialize, there is no shortage of action to keep them going: ravenous ghosts, Shadow Men, secret bands of anarchists, and first sexual experiences, among them.
A solid middle entry that will satisfy readers hooked on this series—and leave them eager for the next. (Historical/paranormal thriller. 14-adult)