Just in time for Christmas, Aconyte is releasing an Arkham Horror novel set in the Christmas season: The Bootlegger’s Dance by Rosemary Jones. Raquel Gutierrez is hiding from life. She doesn’t want her family to know what’s going on and doesn’t even want to admit it to herself, so she’s staying with her Aunt Nova until she can accept her situation.
But while she’s there, she begins to hear things that no one else can hear. Specifically, a man seems to be lost and needs her help. She also begins noticing things about her aunt that she’d rather not think about. Raquel better learn to accept what life is sending her way because it’s not just about her anymore. Lives hang in the balance and it’s time for Raquel to act.
[Note: While I am reviewing this novel independently and honestly, it should be noted that it has been provided to me by Aconyte Books for the purpose of this review. Warning: My review of The Bootlegger’s Dance contains some spoilers!]
Raquel’s plans get derailed in The Bootlegger’s Dance
Raquel Gutierrez is dealing with a lot. She came out east to pursue her dream of being a concert pianist. But a terrible illness has robbed her of her hearing, leaving her without a purpose. She doesn’t want to tell her family because she already knows what they would say, “Forget your dreams, come home, and settle into a miserable boring life that you don’t want”. Okay, maybe not with those words, but that’s what it would be for Raquel.
So instead she turns to her Aunt Nova. Her mother’s sister, Nova, is spoken of in veiled comments in Raquel’s family. She’s a loud, powerful woman in a time when women are expected to be meek and quiet, but Raquel loves her. Nova has plenty of money and uses it to help Raquel, moving her down to Kingsport while she figures things out (this whole story is Arkham adjacent). She also buys her a hearing aid to help her deal with her hearing loss.
Strange whispers indicate there’s a mystery to be solved
And Raquel’s new hearing aid is what brings about the rest of the story. The hearing aid is basically just a microphone Raquel can wear with a speaker in her ear. It’s only supposed to pick up things that are near her and directly in front of her (it’s the 1920s and technology is limited). But Raquel keeps hearing things that she shouldn’t. At first, it’s dogs howling, then it’s a man talking. Raquel isn’t sure what’s going on, but she becomes determined to solve the mystery.
But Raquel’s investigation isn’t the only one happening in Kingsport. It appears that it isn’t just Raquel’s parents whispering about Nova. The federal government is looking into Nova’s alleged bootlegging operation. And that’s not all. A federal agent approaches Raquel, asking questions and making some pretty outlandish accusations. He claims that Nova can travel through time, even change time. And he claims to have proof. Raquel is quick to laugh at his questions. But the more she thinks about it, the more she has to admit that there is more to Nova than meets the eye.
If Raquel had just talked to her aunt about everything that was going on then The Bootlegger’s Dance would have worked out very differently, or maybe not, time travel is funny like that. But instead, she keeps everything to herself, choosing to pretend nothing is happening. It makes sense, it’s the same thing she’s doing about her hearing loss, her family, and her future. Nevertheless, Raquel comes to realize that unless she faces life head-on, things will only get worse. Did she figure it out too late, or can she still save everyone from a horrible fate?
The Bootlegger’s Dance and time travel
Usually, I hate time-travel stories. There are too many paradoxes and it just doesn’t appeal to me. But I had a good time reading The Bootlegger’s Dance. Maybe it’s because the time travel isn’t instantaneous, there’s an in-between world that the travelers visit when they’re moving between times.
I think this other realm helped me think of time travel differently. More along the lines of traveling to Faerie and returning to find out that time has passed differently for people in the real world than it did for you. Of course, that’s not exactly what was happening. For one thing, the time travelers move in both directions on the timeline, but it felt that way, and it allowed me to enjoy the story, which was nice. So kudos to Jones for finding a way to overcome my time travel aversion!
Another Arkham Horror hit by Rosemary Jones
The Arkham Horror series spans quite a few volumes now, and I really enjoy this series. It mixes the mundane and the esoteric in a really fun and exciting way. Anchoring the story to the same town and using the same characters creates a connection that keeps readers coming back.
But by focusing on different people and using characters in different roles (sometimes main, sometimes supporting, sometimes just name-dropped) it makes the world feel more real. The action isn’t just happening in one spot, it’s happening everywhere all at once, just like in real life.
Now we have The Bootlegger’s Dance, set in Kingsport, but still name-dropping Arkham characters and locations, really expanding the world. Jones does an impressive job of stretching the crazy but not overdoing things. I loved her low-key (relative) danger (scary monsters but not world-ending gods) and her fantastic characters.
I seriously want an Aunt Nova. Or maybe to be Aunt Nova. Either one would make me happy. So get some Christmas cheer with a good dose of chills (and not from the temperature!) with The Bootlegger’s Dance. You won’t be disappointed.
My Rating: 9/10
The Bootlegger’s Dance by Rosemary Jones is available now! Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord if you want to read this novel!