If you’ve ever picked up a book by Mike Mignola, author of the Hellboy series, you will know what to expect: a Victorian gothic adventure set against crumbling ruins with elements of steampunk and the supernatural. This is the second book Mignola has co-authored with Christopher Golden. The first, Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire, has also been released as a series of graphic novels that are definitely worth checking out. Both Joe Golem and Baltimore are billed as illustrated novels, which mean the images are less integral to the consumption of the story compared to graphic novels, but they enhance the atmosphere of the narrative.
In this alternative history, New York City is hit in 1925 by several cataclysmic earthquakes, flooding half of the city three stories deep. Wealthy residents who survived the tremors moved up to the higher part of town, called Uptown. The lower, waterlogged Downtown section is often referred to as the Drowning City. Those poorer residents who remain Downtown eke out a living as best they can, navigating the broken, fallen buildings and the canals created between them.
By necessity, residents of the Drowning City are self-reliant, and 14-year old Molly McHugh is certainly a product of her environment. A magician called Felix Orlov, who works under the stage name Orlov the Conjuror, employs her. Orlov is retired from the stage, but still accepts clients interested in his talents as a psychic medium. When a séance goes wrong, Orlov is abducted by strange human-like creatures wearing masks, leaving Molly terrified, but determined to free her friend.
Fleeing from one of the monsters, she runs into Joe Golem, an imposing man built like a boxer, with grey eyes and a stony countenance. Joe knows little of his past, but he and his partner, Simon Church, keep watch on the paranormal activity in the city and they do not like what they have been seeing lately. From here the story takes a decidedly Lovecraftian turn, and Molly has to figure out whom she can trust, and who can best help her free Orlov.
This novel is an enjoyable, quick read. Recommended for fantasy and horror readers, both adult and YA.
Check the WRL catalog for Joe Golem and the Drowning City.