Grove Press: Elements of Fiction by Walter Mosley

Westside

Playwright W.M. Akers has crafted a wildly imaginative debut novel in Westside. Akers's gutsy heroine, Gilda Carr, inhabits an early 20th-century Manhattan split down the middle by a fence of wrought iron and barbed wire. While the Eastside is business as usual, the Westside is a nightmarish fantasy-scape, where the natural laws of the universe are subverted and people vanish into thin air. Amid this chaos, Gilda seeks out and solves "tiny mysteries"--who serves the best roast beef sandwich on the Eastside, what is producing the peculiar smell that permeates Washington Square--in an effort to avoid the big mystery that hangs over her life: What happened to her father? When asked to recover an Eastsider's missing glove, she's thrown into a mystery that will take her deep into the heart of the magic infecting the Westside.

The irrepressible Westside is equal parts Stranger Things and Doctor Who, with a healthy dose of hardboiled noir thrown into the mix, and it's an awesome combination. The setting is weird, wonderful and unsettling, while Akers's prose is atmospheric and occasionally lyrical. The one weak spot seems to be the story's strange insistence on Gilda's relative competence and cleverness, to the detriment of most of the other characters; at times they literally fall all over themselves. It's often entertaining, but feels a bit superficial. In all other ways, Westside is deeply, intricately creative and compelling. Akers's Westside is an excellent addition to the fantasy genre. --Judie Evans, librarian