After exiling us to an island with a boatload of bodacious "Beauty Queens," author Libba Bray is trading in the tiaras for feathered fascinators in her latest novel, "The Diviners" (out now).
It's the Roaring Twenties and our pretty protagonist is Ohio teen Evie O'Neill, whose uncanny ability to suss out people's deepest, darkest secrets is more than just a silly parlor trick. But when her gift leads to one party foul too many, her parents ship her out to the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple to live with her Uncle Will, the curator of the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult.
Evie's arrival in Manhattan coincides with a string of unexplained murders—murders that have a smell of the supernatural thanks to a mysterious symbol that appears on the body of each victim. When Evie's uncle is called upon by the police to offer his expert insights, Effie realizes she can use her gift to help solve these grisly killings.
Along the way, she meets a colorful cast of characters (no surprise in a city like New York!), creating a far bigger, interwoven narrative. There's the loner museum assistant. The Harlem ticket runner. The Ziegfeld show girl. They'll all play a part in the battle of good versus evil that is just beginning to sweep across the country in this series' first installment.
If I could use only one word to describe "The Diviners" (a word count I've obviously surpassed hundreds-fold) it would be "evocative"—both in style and substance. Libba's eery descriptions of shuttered mansions and far-flung cemeteries were spine-tingling enough to make me almost pee my pants a few times, while her narrative nails the mores of 1920s Manhattan—right down to the jaunty, jazzy slang. Which, I do have to admit, got a little wearisome at times. But it's all Jake! Pos-i-tute-ly!
It's probably no coincidence that this very cinematic novel has already found a home at a movie studio—Paramount purchased the film rights this summer on behalf of Fake Empire (otherwise known as the duo behind "Gossip Girl.") So if Evie's luck is as swell as we think it is, she'll be making her grand theatrical debut posthaste.
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