• The Good: A rich fantasy world set in historical Chicago
  • The Bad: Character development
  • The Literary: Nominated for several awards this year

In 1940s Chicago, demons, angels, and human hosts exist alongside warlocks and curses. Helen Brandt, an exiled mystic turned private investigator, takes on a case to track down the White City Vampire, a notorious serial killer. More is at stake than just the case, because in three days either Helen will have the chance to grow old with the woman she loves, or she’s going to Hell.

I love the dashing noir tone with the magical players, not limited to angels and demons, vampires and monsters. This period piece combines the mystery of a hardboiled detective story—and queer women in pinstripe suits—with all of the cultural setbacks of the time. The author pulls no punches here. Helen is targeted both as a women and as a lesbian, and some scenes are genuinely difficult to read, particularly the asylum that houses women who are subjected to aversion therapy for their life choices.

Usually, when you think of a reluctant PI in a dark and gritty world, the character tends to be a loner, aloof by choice, with a dame or two on his heels. But here, Helen is a refreshing take. She’s motivated by love of her brother and her girlfriend, Edith. Only a decade ago, she sold her soul to save her brother and bring him back to Earth after a car accident. He’s both resentful and thankful for her choice, and I wish there were more of their relationship.

Recommended for fans of dames in speakeasies, murders in dark alleys, and queer endings that aren’t totally doomed.