cover image Luckenbooth


Jenni Fagan. Pegasus Crime, $26 (352p) ISBN 978-1-64313-887-9

The interwoven lives of the tenants of No. 10 Luckenbooth Close, a tenement in the heart of Edinburgh, drive this outstanding novel from Fagan (The Panopticon), set over the course of the 20th century. In 1910, young Jessie MacRae sails a coffin into the city’s harbor, claiming to have killed the devil, her father; she has horns growing under her hair to prove it. Jessie has been sold to Mr. Udnam, the tenement’s owner, to secretly bear his wife’s child. Other distinctive characters include Flora, a prostitute and “hermaphrodite,” who’s working up the nerve to see if the man she loves still loves her; Levi, who’s employed in a bone library and is building the skeleton of a mermaid; Agnes, a spiritualist who can summon ghosts; and Ivor, a miner who fears the light. Beat poet William S. Burroughs also makes an appearance. A murder early in the century casts a curse that hovers over the building in the years that follow, as demonstrated by the sound of cloven hoofs. All the tenants’ stories enchant as the action builds to a satisfying conclusion. This highly original novel with its fairy tale quality will appeal to fantasy fans as well. Agent: Rebecca Nagel, Wylie Agency. (Jan.)