cover image My Mistress’ Eyes Are Raven Black

My Mistress’ Eyes Are Raven Black

Terry Roberts. Turner, $16.99 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-1-68442-694-2

Roberts’s impressive historical thriller (after The Holy Ghost Speakeasy and Revival) follows a hotel manager who takes occasional assignments from the federal government’s Bureau of Investigation. In 1920, Stephen Robbins’s job managing New York City’s Algonquin Hotel grows dull, and his romantic relationship has gone cold. The Bureau sends him to Ellis Island to investigate the disappearance of a pregnant Irishwoman, Ciara McManaway, shortly after her arrival. Lucy Paul, a nurse from the American Medical Society conducting a probe of the island’s medical practices, tells Robbins several immigrants disappear at Ellis each week. Several staff members espouse the beliefs of the racial purity movement, and those who vanish (Jews, dark-skinned people, and unwed pregnant women like Ciara) are deemed by them as dangerous to America’s strength. At the morgue, Robbins finds corpses that are a shade of pink as if they have been boiled; after Lucy is endangered by what they find, Robbins realizes how strong their bond has grown. The novel’s fast-paced style echoes hard-boiled detective fiction, but its nuanced, thought-provoking portrait of the country’s hostility toward immigrants transcends the bounds of genre. It should widen Roberts’s fan base and renew interest in his debut novel, A Short Time to Stay Here, which also featured Robbins. Agent: Emma Sweeney, Emma Sweeney Agency. (July)