cover image The Silverberg Business

The Silverberg Business

Robert Freeman Wexler. Small Beer, $17 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-61873-201-9

Steeped in the early history of Texas’s statehood and laced with eerie portents of supernatural horror, the outstanding latest from Wexler (The Painting and the City) impresses with its originality and inventiveness. In 1888, a Jewish private detective who goes by the name of Shannon travels from Chicago to Victoria, Tex., to investigate the disappearance of New Yorker Nathan Silverberg, who was sent with donor funds to buy land on the Texas coast for a settlement of Romanian Jewish refugees. Shannon discovers that Silverberg was first swindled, then murdered by a pair of con men, one of whom—a gambler named Stephens—wears an ornate ring with magic powers. When Shannon pursues Stephens, the ring’s magic transports him to an otherworldly “scratch land” populated by skull-headed beings whose rituals—involving card games and strange dancing—shape a cosmic context for catastrophic events that unfold in the human world. Wexler keeps his twisty plot refreshingly unpredictable and endows his characters—even the non-talking skullheads—with vividly realized personalities that enliven his surreal, atmospheric tale. This weird western packs a wallop. (Aug.)