My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won’t find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could’ve been better or what worked or didn’t work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it’s here I probably think it won’t injure your brain if you read it.
The streets are full of corpses, a cough can earn you alienation and everyone wears a mask, even in their own home. No, it’s not a horrific dystopian cityscape – it’s 1918 San Diego and the Spanish flu is killing people quickly, while the heartbreak over lost loved ones fighting an overseas war kills the rest slowly.
Mary Shelley Black has been sent to live with her aunt after her father is beaten and imprisoned for making unpatriotic statements. While those around her in the streets clutch their facemasks, she wears aviator goggles – the last present from her childhood friend and evidence of the romance blooming between them. Stephen always understood Mary Shelley’s interest in science and technology, and his letters from overseas are her last connection to affection in the world degrading around her.
Unfortunately his older brother and renowned spirit photographer, Julius, has captured the interest of her widowed aunt. Mary Shelley finds herself spending time sitting for promotional photos for his business while her aunt swoons from the sidelines. At one such sitting, Stephen’s spirit appears at her side… and moments later the fateful telegram comes.
Racked with grief, Mary Shelley attempts suicide in the most scientific way she can imagine – by lightning bolt. But her spirit refuses to leave her body and she’s forced back into the cold flesh, bringing along with her a stronger connection to the spirit world than ever before… and Stephen’s presence by her bedside, insisting he’s alive in a trench being tortured by blackbirds.
Mary Shelley maneuvers her way through convalescent hospitals, new studies on shellshock, fakes, forgeries and lies in order to find out what really happened to Stephen… and if she can trust the brother who insists his spirit photographs are not fakes.