Mar 142018

Cover of Stone Mad: A Karen Memory Adventure by Elizabeth Bear.Booklist: Karen and Priya are out for a night on the town when Karen’s irrepressible curiosity gets them entangled with a pair of spiritualists, a stage illusionist, and a riled-up tommy-knocker kidnapped from its mine.

The spiritualist Arcade sisters start it off with a bit of table knocking, but it could be a real “haint”—there’s a story, Karen tells us, about a man returned from Alaska who murdered everyone in the place. Then again, it could just be a grift. Priya, more cautious, is having none of it—which leaves Karen in the hotel with the Arcade sisters and Mrs. Horner, the illusionist, when the hotel starts shaking. The Arcade sisters have gotten the attention of something much more dangerous with their tricks.

Karen is an affable narrator and an enthusiastic investigator, and the story is an excellent adventure as well as a genuinely touching narrative about relationships and compromise; Bear’s (The Stone in the Skull, 2017) narrative skill and flair for both plot and character continue to impress.