In Murphy’s debut novel, people can reconnect with the dead through the Elysian Society, whose employees—known as “bodies”—are temporarily possessed with the help of a drug called a “lotus.”
Eurydice, or Edie, as she is better known, has worked as a body for five years when she meets Patrick Braddock, who wants to connect to his beautiful late wife, Sylvia. From the beginning, she finds herself strangely drawn to Patrick but also to pictures of Sylvia, and when Patrick breaks protocol and gives her many of Sylvia’s possessions to use during her channeling, Edie is unable—and unwilling—to refuse. As Edie falls deeper into lust with Patrick, she can’t let go of Sylvia, whose spirit seems to have taken possession of the corners of her soul and body, and she continues to investigate the mysterious circumstances that surround Sylvia’s drowning. Meanwhile, a highly publicized murder turns out to be connected to the shadowy Elysian Society. The novel's power lies in a careful balance between concealment and explanation. For example, it isn’t until Edie watches one of the other bodies channel a dead spirit that we as readers understand how the process works and, more important, how the bodies act when they're channeling. The psychology is endlessly fascinating, and there should have been a chance for deep exploration of grief’s clarity and its selfishness. The weakness is Edie herself. She often references her plainness, the fact that her personality has a certain blankness that better allows her to channel others, but this blankness also renders the narrative voice both emotionless and self-righteous, so it can be hard to connect to and feel sympathy for the character.
Imaginative and original, this is a novel that should have resonated more deeply.