Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier
1932 is shaping up to be a bloody year in Sydney’s Razorhurst neighborhood. So-named for its ruthless criminals that carry razors instead of the guns banned on the streets, Razorhurst is ruled by crime bosses Gloriana Nelson and Mr. Davidson – and their razor men. The two have reached a fragile peace, but their men wear their razor scars like badges of honor.
Dymphna Campbell is Glory’s best girl, the most beautiful, well-dressed, well-spoken, and every gangster’s most desired companion – especially Mr. Davidson, the only one who can’t have her. The lovely Dymphna is also known as the Angel of Death, since no man she’s been with has ever stayed alive more than a few months. She doesn’t kill them, but they end up dead anyway. Which doesn’t stop them from wanting Dymphna on their arms and at their parties.
Kelpie is a nobody, just a skinny, underfed orphan who scrounges what she can find on the streets to survive. Alone since Old Ma died, Kelpie has no idea how old she is, where her next meal is coming from, or if she’ll even live out the year. So it comes as quite a shock to Kelpie when she stumbles onto a gruesome murder scene when she’s hunting down a lead on some apples and Dymphna is standing over the body of Jimmy Palmer, Glory’s right-hand man, and the latest in Dymphna’s string of dead boyfriends.
Over the next 24 hours, Kelpie and Dymphna evade the coppers, hide from the razor men, and try to manage Glory’s unpredictable temper. The last person Kelpie expected to be hiding in abandoned houses with was The Angel of Death, especially when Kelpie discovers that she and Dymphna share a dark secret – they can both see ghosts, and the ghost of murdered Jimmy Palmer isn’t going anywhere.
This reads like a macabre mashup of Boardwalk Empire and Libba Bray’s The Diviners. Sharp and glittering with an edge of deepest dark, this novel will keep you up late finishing it, and then later still hoping there aren’t any ghosts lurking in the corners. The best part? Author Justine Larbalestier wrote this book after realizing that her gentrified neighborhood used to be Razohurst, one of the bloodiest slums in Sydney, ruled by crime and corruption. Although the events in her novel are fictional, many of the characters are based on real people. If you love reading about the dark glitz, glamor, and gore of bootleggers, mafia lords, and dealings in dark alleys, don’t miss Razorhurst!