Friday, July 15, 2016

Me on Razorhurst

Title: Razorhurst
Author: Justine Larbalestier
Release Date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: Soho Teen (Soho Press imprint)

Sydney's deadly Razorhurst neighborhood, 1932. Gloriana Nelson and Mr. Davidson, two ruthless mob bosses, have reached a fragile peace—one maintained by "razor men." Kelpie, orphaned and homeless, is blessed (and cursed) with the ability to see Razorhurst's many ghosts. They tell her secrets the living can't know about the cracks already forming in the mobs' truce. Then Kelpie meets Dymphna Campbell, a legendary beauty and prized moll of Gloriana Nelson. She's earned the nickname "Angel of Death" because none of her beaus has ever survived knowing her. Unbeknownst to Kelpie, Dymphna can see ghosts, too, and she knows that Gloriana's hold is crumbling one henchman at a time. As loyalties shift and betrayal threatens the two girls at every turn, Dymphna is determined not only to survive, but to rise to the top with Kelpie at her side.

Razorhurst is dark and dangerous, lethal and haunting. It's a glimpse of a time, of a neighbourhood, caught up in a crumbling agreement. A glimpse of two young women trying to navigate their way out while hands keep grasping at them, pulling them back in.

Kelpie is sweet and alone, a lost orphan girl. Left to her own devices, which aren't in great number. Left to scour the streets for food and shelter, left to hide from cops and Welfare. Left to be raised by ghosts. Dymphna is beautiful, mysterious. Deadly. The men who she becomes involved with can't stay alive for long. There's darkness in her past, a past she's run from, a past she hides as she lives in a fancy apartment, bought with money earned as Gloriana Nelson's best girl. Both of these young women come together by accident, by happenstance, and become immersed in a dangerous plot. Surrounded by guns, razors, and shouting ghosts, each must trust the other if they both want to survive.

The way this book is written is a curious kind of exploration, both of character and of setting. Chapters that alternate between plot, Kelpie and Dymphna's race to keep themselves hidden and alive, and insight and history. The history of why the neighbourhood is called Razorhurst, of where Kelpie came from and the times the ghosts helped her eat and learn, of where Dymphna ran from and how she ended up a prostitute. Moments of the past, glimpses into characters and the events that shaped them. As a fan of storytelling, I was very intrigued.

This is a dense book, full of detail, of worried thoughts and dangerous characters. It's a density that kept me reading, kept me wondering. Who was Kelpie's birth family? Would the war between Gloriana Nelson and Mr. Davidson going to come to a head? Will Kelpie or Dymphna ever say out loud that they can see ghosts? Will both young women survive? As this book takes place during a time period in a country I don't know too much about, I was eager to learn of its history, that the author drew from her neighbourhood and looked at its bloody past. Looked at the ways women were treated, the jobs they took in order to support themselves, and the power they fight to keep. I would definitely recommend this to all readers, to historical fiction fans and ghostly mystery fans and those looking for a new story.

(I borrowed an e-book copy of this title from the library.)

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