Razorhurst By Justine Larbalestier

I received this galley in consideration for an honest review.

This book contains material that may be triggering for sensitive readers.
Razorhurst By Justine LarbalestierRazorhurst by Justine Larbalestier
Published by SoHo Press on March 3, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction

The setting: Razorhurst, 1932. The fragile peace between two competing mob bosses—Gloriana Nelson and Mr Davidson—is crumbling. Loyalties are shifting. Betrayals threaten. Kelpie knows the dangers of the Sydney streets. Ghosts have kept her alive, steering her to food and safety, but they are also her torment. Dymphna is Gloriana Nelson’s ‘best girl’, experienced in surviving the criminal world, but she doesn’t know what this day has in store for her. When Dymphna meets Kelpie over the corpse of Jimmy Palmer, Dymphna’s latest boyfriend, she pronounces herself Kelpie’s new protector. But Dymphna’s life is in danger too, and she needs an ally. And while Jimmy’s ghost wants to help, the dead cannot protect the living .


It was obvious to me from the very beginning of Razorhurst that this was a story built by extensive research and gifted world building.  I can’t think of a book that has sucked me into its pages in quite the same way that Razorhurst did.  Not only does it have all of the blood-soaked, brutal features of a mob story, it ha the added bonus of ghosts.  Of course, our two heroines can see the ghosts, and the way that the spirits speak to them and try to get their attention was both eerie and fascinating.  The story really gets going with a gruesome murder that brings Dymphna, a highly paid prostitute, and Kelpie, a malnourished street kid with a back story that puts any Dickens character to shame, together.  As they try to dodge both Dymphna’s Madam and another local mob boss, the reader gets to peek into the lives of both girls as well as the lives of various other residents of Razorhurt.

I loved both main characters, but I especially loved Kelpie.  With a series of ghosts helping her at various times in her life, she managed to survive, and that unstoppable instinct to live is what made me admire her.  Its also what made her friendship with Dymphna that much more touching.  Here were two girls who couldn’t have come from circumstances that were more different, and yet, they really understood each other.  Their shared abilities and their determination to survive actually made them quite a good match as friends.  In between the murder and the blood of this story, was a book about two people finding each other when they desperately needed a friend.  While very few characters that started the book made it to the end, I really loved the ending.  In fact, I really loved the whole thing.  Razorhurst was fascinating for its wonderful storytelling and its fabulous world building.  This may have been a book that flew under your radar, but I strongly urge you to put it on your reading list and give it a chance.



About Justine Larbalestier

Justine Larbalestier is an Australian young-adult fiction author. She is best known for the Magic or Madness trilogy: Magic or Madness, Magic Lessons and the newly released Magic’s Child. She also wrote one adult non-fiction book, the Hugo-nominated The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction (Best Related Book, 2003), and edited another, Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century.


4 responses to “Razorhurst By Justine Larbalestier

  1. Her name is Kelpie?! That’s crazy, but kind of fun. This book sounds so, so good and I’m dying to read it–I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed it! I’ve never actually read a Larbalestier book before, I think I might start with this one.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  2. I haven’t heard of this one, Kate, so it definitely flew under my radar. I’m intrigued though–I’m especially fond of books with research and solid world-building, so this one sounds right up my ally. Thanks for your warning though about the fact that many characters don’t make it to the end!

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