It’s 1932, and Sydney’s slum, nicknamed Razorhurst for the gangsters who wield knives instead of guns, is run by two major crime lords: Mr. Davidson and Gloriana Nelson. Despite the mobs’ truce, no one is truly safe from the violence that disrupts the neighborhood, especially Kelpie, a homeless orphan who depends on the help of ghosts for her daily survival. After a spiteful spirit sends Kelpie into a notorious boarding house, she runs into Dymphna Campbell, Gloriana Nelson’s most valuable girl, who is standing over the dead body of Dymphna’s boyfriend. Dymphna’s been keeping secrets: Not only can she ghosts, too, but she and her boyfriend were conspiring to kill both crime bosses and rule over Razorhurst. Now Dymphna, with Kelpie in tow, is on the run. Unfortunately, she doesn’t know who is out to get her and whom she can trust.
Razorhurst is a dark read filled with violence and poverty. Every character, from a cook to a nuisance ghost, is given the full treatment in brief chapters that are interspersed throughout the central narrative. Unfortunately, this is at the expense of the plot, and the pacing suffers for it. Even the ghosts, while an intriguing hook, only serve to bring Kelpie and Dymphna together. Their back stories, although interesting, are not integral to the plot. Readers may overlook these weaknesses to enjoy Justine Larbalestier’s powerful, descriptive prose.
Kimberly Giarratano is the author of Grunge Gods and Graveyards, a young adult paranormal mystery.