cover image Black Dove

Black Dove

Colin McAdam. Soho, $26 (336p) ISBN 978-1-64129-422-5

McAdam (A Beautiful Truth) chronicles a boy’s magical transformation in this brooding, memorable outing. Oliver is regularly hunted by school bully Murdoch in the rundown neighborhood where he lives with his widower father. While escaping the bullies, Oliver hides out in a junk shop where Geppetto-like owner Allele Princeps offers protection. After Oliver shares details of his life with Allele, including torments from Murdoch and his late mother’s alcoholism, the shopkeeper reveals a dog he bred with a forked tongue and asks Oliver if he’d like to be bigger and stronger. Oliver regularly visits the shop, and soon Allele begins performing genetic experiments on him. In chapters from Allele’s point of view, the shopkeeper recounts his previous work as a genetic researcher, which inspired him to create the “perfect boy” and “give strength to the weak.” Once Oliver is equipped with newfound strength and, among other attributes, fangs, he gains the confidence to court the girl next door before a bloody showdown with Murdoch. Some of the allegorical aspects are a bit murky, but there are plenty of rewarding details of Oliver’s hardscrabble survival and transformation. Readers will be enchanted by this dark adventure. Douglas Stewart, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Feb.)