cover image The Queen of the Cicadas

The Queen of the Cicadas

V. Castro. Flame Tree, $24.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-78758-603-1

Writing in breathtaking, atmospheric prose, Castro (Hairspray and Switchblades) merges brutal realism and supernatural terror to create a fierce, memorable tale of Mexican folklore and horror. In 2018, Belinda Montoya, a divorced mother in her 40s who sees herself as a monster and a failure, attends her childhood best friend’s wedding at an imposing Victorian farmhouse in Alice, Tex. There, she meets Hector, the property’s owner, who recalls the tale of La Reina de Las Chicharras, an urban legend about a hate crime that occurred on the farm decades before. The narrative alternates between the present-day wedding and the truth of what happened all those years ago. In 1952, Milagros Santos, an undocumented immigrant worker from Mexico, is subjected to racist harassment from the white women on the farm that escalates until Milagros is lynched. The farm then “falls into the clutches of a curse” as one by one those responsible for the murder meet their end at the hands of Mictecacíhuatl, the Aztec Queen of the Dead, who appears as a woman without skin. Castro uses this well-constructed narrative of supernatural retribution to tell an urgent story of the plight of migrant workers. Visceral and disturbing in the best of ways, this is sure to impress. [em](May) [/em]