cover image Hazardous Spirits

Hazardous Spirits

Anbara Salam. Tin House, $17.95 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-1-959030-13-3

In Salam’s densely atmospheric latest (after Belladonna), a woman in 1923 Edinburgh grapples with her husband’s newfound obsession with the spirit realm. Evelyn Hazard quietly gave up her baby for adoption a decade earlier, a secret she shared only with her sister, Dolly, before Dolly died. Now, she worries her husband, Robert, will contact Dolly’s spirit and learn the truth. Evelyn trails him to the Spiritualist Library, where she’s mistaken for Dolly and eventually reveals herself to Robert. She then begins accompanying him to a spiritual hall, where she’s dismayed to discover Robert’s “spiritual tutor” is a child named Clarence who speaks with crowds about deceased relatives. Robert picks up the skill, too, forging a traveling I-see-dead-people act with Clarence, and Evelyn comes along for the tour. Due to their travels, Evelyn’s social circle widens, though she continues to wrestle with her feelings about Robert’s calling to clairvoyancy: “If Robert was right, then she had only ever known half the world.” When a child goes missing, people clamor for Clarence and Robert’s assistance, and Evelyn questions her husband’s sincerity. Though the reader might grow tired of Evelyn’s continuous dread over her secret being revealed, Salam crafts a believable portrait of the 1920s spiritualism scene. Historical fiction fans will savor this. (Oct.)