Death lurks around every corner in this unforgettable Jewish historical fantasy about a city, a boy, and the shadows of the past that bind them both together. Chicago, 1893. For Alter Rosen, this is the land of opportunity, and he dreams of the day he’ll have enough money to bring his mother and sisters to America, freeing them from the oppression they face in his native Romania. But when Alter’s best friend, Yakov, becomes the latest victim in a long line of murdered Jewish boys, his dream begins to slip away. While the rest of the city is busy celebrating the World’s Fair, Alter is now living a nightmare: possessed by Yakov’s dybbuk, he is plunged into a world of corruption and deceit, and thrown back into the arms of a dangerous boy from his past. A boy who means more to Alter than anyone knows. Now, with only days to spare until the dybbuk takes over Alter’s body completely, the two boys must race to track down the killer—before the killer claims them next.
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3 Reasons to Read THE CITY BEAUTIFUL:
1.) The romance: At first, I wasn't sure what direction the romance would go, but I was soon won over by the intense chemistry between Alter and Frankie. Alter and Frankie parted on bad terms almost a year ago, but now that they have to work together to solve the mystery, feelings start to come back stronger than ever. I loved their banter, but even more so, the vulnerability and honesty they had to show to each other to get to a healthy place.
2.) The setting: Historical fantasy is my favorite mash-up of genres, and Aden Polydoros brings 1893 Chicago to life. The World's Fair is a significant cornerstone of the story, but the rich, detailed pieces that bring the setting to life are Alter's street, his building, and even his workplace. It is in those spaces more than anywhere where the reader sees what day-to-day life was like for some people, what challenges and discrimination they faced, and where they found joy in community.
3.) The mystery: The mystery is THE CITY BEAUTIFUL is layered, complex, and (for my part), impossible to figure out ahead of time. Through the mystery of Yakov's death and the other murdered Jewish boys, Polydoros's cleverly reminds the reader that evil comes in all shapes and forms, and it is dangerous to assume anything is or isn't linked.
With intrigue, romance, and gorgeous prose, THE CITY BEAUTIFUL is easily one of my favorite thrillers of the year.