The Haw­ley Book Of The Dead

Now you see her…

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Books -

Re­lease Date: 23 Oc­to­ber

333 pages | £ 16.99 ( hard­back)/£ 8.49 ( ebook) Au­thor: Chrysler Szarlan Pub­lisher: Cen­tury

An open­ing sen­tence

that grabs the reader is worth its weight in gold. The doubts you might have had on pick­ing up a book with a cutesy cover whose mar­ket­ing blurb prom­ises that it’s “the kind of novel that makes you be­lieve that magic re­ally ex­ists” are chal­lenged once you turn to the first page and read, “On the day I killed my hus­band, the scent of lilacs star­tled me awake.” Short, sharp, in­trigu­ing: here’s what is go­ing to hap­pen, but don’t you want to know how?

The writ­ing isn’t all as taut and stark as this. But while it does get a lit­tle ( if you’ll for­give the pun) flow­ery at times, Chrysler Szarlan has a keen eye for im­agery that uses the visual to mir­ror char­ac­ters’ emo­tional re­sponses. The Ne­vada sun that first morn­ing is, we’re told, “sharp as a knife, the heat al­ready set­tled into ev­ery crevice of the day”.

Fur­ther­more, the cen­tral mys­tery of how and why a stage ma­gi­cian could have died dur­ing a rou­tine Las Ve­gas per­for­mance pow­ers the plot very ef­fec­tively, and the pro­tag­o­nist’s day- to- day strug­gle to keep her­self and her fam­ily go­ing in the wake of tragedy gives it some heft.

To­wards the end the story gets bogged down in un­nec­es­sary lev­els of de­tail about Ir­ish folk­lore, but by and large, Szarlan’s tale is paced for page- turn­ing. Nic Clarke

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