cover image Curious Toys

Curious Toys

Elizabeth Hand. Mulholland, $27 (384p) ISBN 978-0-3164-8588-3

Spunky 14-year-old Pin, the heroine of this atmospheric crime novel from Shirley Jackson Award–winner Hand (Hard Light) set in early 20th-century Chicago, struggles to survive with her single mother, the fortune-teller at the Riverview Amusement Park, whose patrons try to temporarily forget such grim realities as grime-belching industrial furnaces, squalid tenements, and murderous gangs. The scrawny Pin disguises herself as a boy both for safety and to give her the freedom to earn money running errands. Her favorite is delivering drugs from Max, the park’s “She-Male,” to customers at the Essanay movie studio, a world that fascinates her. But darker forces intrude when the teen, who finds passing as a boy liberating, discovers a murdered girl inside the Hell Gate ride. Her efforts to track down the killer, with the help of “dingbatty” real-life outsider artist Henry Darger, put her in peril. Though Hand’s attempts to establish multiple viable suspects, all with disturbing, if confusing, psychological histories, muddy the narrative, this remains a phantasmagoric time trip tailor-made for fans of The Devil in the White City. [em]Agent: Martha Millard, Martha Millard Literary. (Oct.) [/em]