Rating: 5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

 

Once up on a time, I had walked into a secret queer bar, and the woman who would be the love of my life asked me to dance. She hadn’t known whether to lead or to follow, but she put her hand on my waist and did her best as she stepped all over my toes. Later that night, as we walked under a diamond studded sky up the shore of Lake Michigan, she made up for not knowing how to dance by kissing me so sweet, the earth stood still to watch it.

This story feels like a fairytale set in a 1920s film noir detective novel. Helen is dying. She has days left to live, and she’s fine with that. Helen has squirreled enough money away that Edith, the love of her life, the sun in her sky, the woman who brings her joy and love and light and laughter, can live comfortably when she’s gone. But a little more couldn’t hurt. When Marlowe asks Helen to take a few pictures of a crime scene and try to get a magical reading, Helen agrees. And it ends up being both the best and the worst choice she ever made.

Step by step, Helen is drawn into circles she never knew existed. Angels and demons using human bodies — hosts, vessels, victims — to do their great works. Bloody offerings left in quiet parts of the city, but to what end, and to who? All of the victims have one thing in common, and Helen might just be next on the list. Or so Marlowe hints. Marlowe who, like Helen, isn’t exactly what she seems.

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, because it’s twist after twist, with some honestly heartbreaking moments — while the young girls in the asylum whose minds are cruelly emptied of all thought are tragic, it’s the women who can still think, still feel, and are just as trapped that linger in my mind — and creative, wonderful world building. It’s a dash of Supernatural, a smidge of Constantine, and the wit and dry humor of the Thin Man.

This is an era, where patronizing misogyny — does your husband let you do that? — flavors a lot of the background scenes, but Helen views it with a mixture of contempt and disdain, while still being a member of that society, living in it, working in it, and enduring it. Helen knows who she is, what she wants, and isn’t trying to be a woman in a man’s world. She’s a woman in a woman’s world, moving effortlessly through the nonsense and the noise. She’s not snarky, or throwing cutting jabs; she’s empathetic, solemn, understanding, and kind. (And I will read every book she’s in.)

Edith, the light to Helen’s dark, is as angel. Beautiful and sweet, she feeds the city birds, attends her church, and puts up with Helen’s moods and strangenesses. She lets Helen show her how to use a gun because it makes Helen happy; she waits, knowing Helen — who is late; very late — will come, eventually, and forgives as easily as breathing. It’s easy to see why the two of them get along so well. They’re both madly in love, supportive and protective of each other, and Helen leans on Edith almost more than Edith leans on her. It’s such a balanced, happy romance, and you just want them to have everything they ever wanted, because that’s what they’d want for you.

I’m not usually big on detective series, but if C.L. Polk ends up turning this one into a series, I will be there for every book. Please join me in reading and loving this story. It’s soft, sweet, and a perfect romance set in an imaginative world with gorgeous writing. I cannot stress enough just how much I truly enjoyed every moment I spent reading this book.

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