Author: H.P. Wood
Publication Date: June 7, 2016
Published: Sourcebooks Landmark
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.
Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet was a wonderful story. I really felt for many of the characters and their journey. I even loved the weird and mystical Curiosity Cabinet, which was a character too. The Cabinet and Timur's inventions reminded me a bit of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Because of that magical feeling I put aside some of my reservations about the end and how quickly some characters recovered.
They say write what you know and it shows. The author is the granddaughter of a mad inventor and a sideshow magician. I also loved the author's notes about what was historically accurate and what was historical fiction. I am interested in looking into some of her recommendations that helped her writing.
I have family in Brooklyn near Coney Island, so I have spent time there, and I loved reading the descriptions of the place. It felt like home and I became giddy as I recognized the places.
When Hoffman Island and Swinburne Island were mentioned I knew exactly where they were. In the early 1900s, the islands were used as a quarantine station, housing immigrants found to have been carrying contagious diseases when they landed at Ellis Island.
Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet is a spectacular story and definitely worth reading, especially if you like magical and anything Unusual.
4 out 5 Boxing Kangaroos