The Hawley Book Of The Dead
Now you see her…
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