For my next Halloween read I chose The Diviners by Libba Bray. This book definitely fit into all three of my genre categories for the month: thriller, mystery and horror. Actually, this 600 page book pretty much covers all genres: humor, drama, romance, adventure. You name it, this book has it. Libba Bray has been one of my very favorite authors since I read her first book, A Great and Terrible Beauty. That book and its two sequels follow Gemma Doyle, an English boarding school student in 1895. Gemma inherited visions from her mother that lead her and her friends to discover that they have magical powers and can enter and control other realms. I’m not one for fantasy, but I adored the Gemma Doyle trilogy because of the amazing characters in the book. Bray’s next book, Going Bovine, is also full of colorful characters, but it is completely different; it is about Cameron, a teen with Mad Cow Disease who goes on a crazy journey with a dwarf and a garden gnome. Then came Beauty Queens, a satire about a bunch of pageant contestants who get stranded on a desert island that is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read.
Libba Bray is an amazingly versatile writer and The Diviners is a great showcase for her talents. The book takes place in 1926 and follows Evie O’Neill, a seventeen-year-old from Ohio who is sent to New York City to live with her Uncle Will, who is the curator of a museum dedicated to the supernatural and occult. Evie is all about shopping, dancing and attending fabulous parties at ritzy restaurants. Her fun is interrupted when her uncle is called upon to help the police solve a bizarre and seemingly otherwordly crime. When there is a second related incident Evie realizes that she has a magical gift that can help and she vows to do so, even if that means dredging up painful memories from her past and getting herself into trouble. My favorite thing about Libba Bray is that she creates funny, relatable characters. In The Diviners we also get to meet Sam and Jericho, two very different guys who end up working at the museum and helping Evie and her uncle; Memphis, a numbers runner in Harlem who tries to protect his younger brother from his disturbing visions; and Theta and Henry, best friends who work for the Ziegfeld Follies and have also escaped painful pasts. I love how the characters come together and since this is the first in a trilogy I know that I’ll have two more books to learn about them. I also love the 1920s setting of this novel; it’s so much fun to envision New York at the time, with the girls in their flapper dresses and the guys in their zoot suits dancing to the Charleston. I really can’t say enough about this book; I could gush about it for hours. As Evie herself would say, “It’s the bee’s knees!”