Spiegel & Grau/ Penguin Random House, $28.00, 431 pages, ISBN 978-0-8129-9594-7
It’s become a tradition. Each October, in observance of All Hallows Eve, the Dia de los Muertos and JDM’s birthday—which is on Halloween—the MBR reviews works of the paranormal, otherworldly and unexplained. The weird, supernatural and bizarre stuff that’s outside of our usual focus on murder, mayhem and mankind’s general savagery. All in good fun of course . . . for no writer of crime fiction could even begin to compete with the actual news of the day . . . which is the strangest of all. We’re kicking it off this year with a fantasy thriller that’s part legend, part immigrant folk tale and part magical reality, all intertwined with a family saga of love, tragedy, loss, violence, revenge and redemption which will so enchant readers that they’ll stay locked-on each and every page until the end.
The Changeling, by Victor LaValle, has an edgy quality to it that will cause the parents of small children to look in on them a bit more often as they sleep and double-check, making certain all the doors and windows are locked tight. That’s because the basic premise of The Changeling is innumerable folk tales in which unattended babies are stolen by malevolent ghosts, goblins, ghouls or demons. It’s an age-old theme that’s re-imagined with modern values, as a young book dealer named Apollo Kagwa wants nothing more than to live an ordinary life and be a great father to his newborn son, Brian. Brian’s named for Apollo’s own father, who mysteriously disappeared when Apollo was a child. Life’s good for the Kagwas until Emma Kagwa, in a fit of post-partum depression, commits an unspeakable act of violence . . . and disappears. Until that point in the novel Apollo had been an ordinary man living a regular existence. Now broken-hearted, he sets out on a mission of retribution and revenge, and unwittingly thrusts himself into a fantastic magical realm right in the heart of New York City. It’s a world where illusions are fact, witches are real, and the utterly grotesque has taken shape, form and life. It’s where Apollo Kagwa will learn that “Monsters aren’t real until you meet one,” as the author writes on page 328 before letting his imagination run free as he explores what it means to be a father, a husband and a hero . . . all within the confines of a classic fairy tale. The Changeling is epic in detail, magnificently written and awesome in scope!