Published: June 25th 2014 by Allen & Unwin
Format: Paperback, 365 pages
Genres: Crime, Historical, Paranormal
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The setting: Razorhurst, 1932. The fragile peace between two competing mob bosses — Gloriana Nelson and Mr Davidson — is crumbling. Loyalties are shifting. Betrayals threaten.
Kelpie knows the dangers of the Sydney streets. Ghosts have kept her alive, steering her to food and safety, but they are also her torment.
Dymphna is Gloriana Nelson’s ‘best girl’, experienced in surviving the criminal world, but she doesn’t know what this day has in store for her.
When Dymphna meets Kelpie over the corpse of Jimmy Palmer, Dymphna’s latest boyfriend, she pronounces herself Kelpie’s new protector. But Dymphna’s life is in danger too, and she needs an ally. And while Jimmy’s ghost wants to help, the dead cannot protect the living ...
O0o0o0o this was awesome.
1932 in Australia was a dramatic time. The Harbour Bridge was officially opened, the Great Depression had destroyed lives across the country, and unemployment had reached a peak of 30%. Razors had replaced guns as weapons for gangsters and Sydney was ruled by razor-gangs.
It’s against this colourful and dangerous backdrop that we meet Kelpie, a homeless orphan girl looking for apples. She finds Dymphna, Gloriana ‘Glory’ Nelson’s ‘best girl’, next to the body of her most recent boyfriend. Hunted by both of the Sydney mob-bosses, Glory and Mr. Davidson, the two of them try to reach the dubious safety of Dymphna’s benefactors.
Kelpie is small, malnourished, and she can see and talk to ghosts. She has been surviving on the streets of Surrey Hills with the help of some unlikely folk, including hit-men and the ghosts that haunt the area. Kelpie is smart, determined, and extraordinarily brave. Dymphna shares many of the same qualities, but their backgrounds couldn’t be more different. Dymphna is practical and clever, having survived so long in her world of crime, sex and murder. I liked how resourceful she was and how she genuinely cared for Kelpie.
The plot of Razorhurst surprised me since the takes place over one day. One very long, very eventful day. So much happens throughout the novel that sometimes it’s jarring when someone goes ‘oh it’s only noon’, but it works in this case. The characters never seemed to be in a hurry to do anything, even when they were saying they were in a hurry. I think the style of storytelling style adopted in this narrative takes away from the urgency the characters must have felt.
A story that begins with a body covered in blood and ends with another body covered in blood, Razorhurst brings this volatile and perilous time in Sydney’s history to life well. The author has obviously done her research, and the book makes subtle but accurate references to the political and social climate of the times. In many ways, this book could have worked well as a crime-drama without the touch of supernatural, but I enjoyed the creepy vibe the ghosts brought to the atmosphere.
This is the first novel by Justine Larbalestier that I have read, and I am sad that I haven’t picked up any of her earlier books. Razorhurst is a brilliantly crafted story that will keep you flipping pages until the wee hours of the morning, despite being slightly lighter in speculative fiction elements than what I usually read.