May 1904. Coney Island’s newest amusement park, Dreamland, has just opened. Its many spectacles are expected to attract crowds by the thousands, paying back investors many times over.
Kitty Hayward and her mother arrive by steamer from South Africa. When Kitty’s mother takes ill, the hotel doctor sends Kitty to Manhattan to fetch some special medicine. But when she returns, Kitty’s mother has vanished. The desk clerk tells Kitty she is at the wrong hotel. The doctor says he’s never seen her although, she notices, he is unable to look her in the eye.
Alone in a strange country, Kitty meets the denizens of Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet. A relic of a darker, dirtier era, Magruder's is home to a forlorn flea circus, a handful of disgruntled Unusuals, and a mad Uzbek scientist. Magruder’s Unusuals take Kitty under their wing and resolve to find out what happened to her mother.
But as a plague spreads, Coney Island is placed under quarantine. The gang at Magruder’s finds that a missing mother is the least of their problems, as the once-glamorous resort town is abandoned to the freaks, anarchists, and madmen.
Rating: 3.5 Stars
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Magruder's was an engaging novel that takes place in the early half of the twentieth century. This is one of my favorite time periods to read about, though I'm sad to say that until now I had not read one concerning Coney Island.
The story had a slow building quality to it that was comfortable and fit well with the situation at hand. The characters were a motley crew that I never doubted for a moment, which is possibly why I rated this a bit lower that I might normally have.
Kitty's travels to and through the mysterious Curiosity Cabinet certainly grab your attention and I don't think you'll want to put it down for long if at all. There's the trouble with a vanishing mother and then, more terrifying I think, the threat of an illness that is sweeping through the island. Stories that have a disease, especially in a historical time before much was known about treatment, are quite chilling.
Be prepared for wonder and fear, excitement and nervous terror. Enjoy a trip to Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet.
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