The Diviners

(2012)
The Diviners book cover

Libba Bray's The Diviners mixes mystery and supernatural horror and sets in Prohibition Era New York. The effect is excellent--if I were a wine connoisseur and this book were a wine, I'd note hints of HBO's Carnivale, Stephen King's novels, and a liberal peppering of 1920s slang. I'll hold back from getting cutesy using the slang in this review.

Evie lives too fast. This leads to her using her unique ability to learn about people from their objects, publicly while drunk, and causing a scandal in her Ohio hometown. Her parents send her to live in New York with her uncle, Will, who runs a museum of folklore and occult curiosities, and his assistant, Jericho. Evie's thrilled to be there--she goes out with her friend and neighbor, Mabel, to speakeasies and films, and meets Theta, a dancer in the Ziegfeld Follies who gives them free tickets and joins them in their partying.

Other characters are woven into this story, including budding poet Memphis Campbell and his brother, Isaiah; Theta's piano-playing roommate Henry; and, of course, the murderer.

Evie bullies her way into joining her uncle when the police seek his assistance in investigating the first murder. Arcane symbols on the victim's body require the expertise of someone knowledgeable in the occult. But then, there's Evie's ability to see and learn things about people by touching their belongings--is she brave enough to touch a corpse? Would her uncle, if he knew about her ability, let her? And if he does, can they catch the killer before he strikes again or does something much worse?

This is the first book of a series, and I'm looking forward to the next book. I enjoyed the suspense and adventure of the story, as well as spending time with each of the well-defined characters and exploring Evie's, Memphis's, and Theta's New York. I'd recommend this story to fans of Stephen King, fans of supernatural mysteries, and any reader (teen or adult) undaunted by thick books.

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