Orpheus and Eurydice as incipient Cold War spies.
In the third and final adventure in Meloy’s Apothecary series, “the universe is doing its work, and we are only part of it….We are the vessel through which it flows.” Benjamin Burrows, now orphaned, lives with Janie Scott and her parents. He and Janie are going through the motions of high school life in 1955 Ann Arbor, but grief and depression make him sympathetically remote. When Benjamin confides that he has contacted his father in the After-Room (a vague purgatorial space between the natural and supernatural realms), Janie is both panicked and intrigued. As they pursue answers about the afterlife, the universe reunites the pair with many of their old friends (Vili, Pip, Jin Lo) in the service of preventing another nuclear disaster. Meanwhile, the teenagers and their allies find themselves alternately pursued by the carabinieri, the Mafia, the United States Navy, Chinese pirates, and their fatal nemesis, Danby. As with the previous novel in the series, The Apprentices (2013), Meloy excels at bringing readers quickly up to speed on the characters’ histories, and she achingly conveys the razor-thin line between the elation and despair of first love.
This series finale wraps up most of its loose ends in a satisfying bow, leaving just enough room for imaginative middle-grade readers and teens to conjure up their own futures for Janie and Benjamin. (Historical fantasy. 10-14)