Monday, July 31, 2006

Hex, by Maggie Estep

(pb; 2003)

From the back cover:

“Having drifted through thirty-three years of life, Ruby Murphy has put down roots in a rootless place: Coney Island. A recovering alcoholic who is fanatical in her love for animals and her misanthropic friends, Ruby lives above a furniture store and works at the Coney Island Museum. One day, Ruby is on the subway heading into Manhattan when the train stalls between stations. An elegant blond woman with a scarred face strikes up a conversation, and a misunderstanding between the two women leads to an offer Ruby decides she can’t refuse. The woman needs her boyfriend followed, and she thinks Ruby is the woman to do it – and do it right.

“Ruby’s life has been flat and painful lately. The Coney Island Museum isn’t doing much business, Ruby’s live-in boyfriend has moved out, and her best friend Oliver is battling cancer. Ruby agrees to follow the woman’s boyfriend, Frank, a man who works at Belmont Racetrack and seems to hang out in odd places with bad company. Ruby soon finds herself pushed head-first into horse-racing’s seamy underbelly. There is a dangerous world where nothing is as it appears, and people and horses seem to have limited life spans. When Ruby finds herself staring down the barrel of a loaded gun, she begins to have second thoughts.”


Estep’s poetic prose, warm and quirky characters (seven of whom express themselves in first-person narratives, in alternating chapters) and solid pacing made this a downright pleasure to read. For the few hours it took me to read it, I was immersed in this beguiling, often suspenseful work, which transcends the narrow-in-scope mystery genre.

Even if you’re not into mysteries, check this out. It’s that good.

Followed by Gargantuan.

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