Cover Image: Children of Chicago

Children of Chicago

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

It's been years and the murders are happening again. After finding Grimms Fairly Tales at the scene of a crime, Detective Medina knows that something strange is happening and it's not going to stop unless she can figure it out. Children are going missing, presumed murdered, and it's a little too close to what happened when Medina was a child. There were a few times in the book where I really wanted them to get to the point. There was a lot of information given that felt poorly weaved into the story but overall the story was very interesting. Warning: This story is very graphic and deals with children, violence, and death. 

3/5 Stars

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Actual rating: 2.5 stars

Sadly, I didn't end up enjoying this as much as I hoped. I really liked the fairy tale aspects of this, especially because it's a darker take on things. I haven't read too much about the Pied Piper, so this was really interesting to explore this lore. I also liked how it feels like an urban legend like Bloody Mary. There are a few creepy moments as well!

Unfortunately, I thought there was way too much unnecessary info dumping with background information. I do enjoy learning about the Brothers Grimm and the background of fairy tales, so these parts were somewhat interesting. However, I just didn't particularly care for the details about the history of Chicago, especially with the buildings. In general, these sections really took away from the main investigation. There were also some choppy timelines and dialogue, and I didn't particularly like any of the characters.

I'm so bummed that this didn't work for me! I think I would have enjoyed it more as a novella without all the background information.

I received a copy of this for review from the publisher via NetGalley - thank you! All opinions are my own.

My video review can be seen on my channel (around minutes 0:31-2:57 of this video):
Was this review helpful?
Wow, this book was much darker than I thought it was going to be... and I loved it! I mean, it's about the Pied Piper, so I should have known it was going to be grim.
The characters were done so well, as was the dialog. There were moments of terror (like when one kid is laughing like a maniac when she certainly shouldn't be), some bloody goodness, and enough mystery to keep me turning the (Kindle) pages like a madman.

Children of Chicago was my first read from Cynthia Pelayo, but it will not be my last.
Definitely recommend this one to you horror creeps out there!
Was this review helpful?
I want to thank Netgalley, Cynthia Pelayo, and Polis Books for giving me a chance to read this book in exchange for an honest review. 

First of all, I think it's an amazing concept that a fairytale was given a crime twist. When the narrator says that "this certain fairytale or folklore is dark" it is absolutely dark that I loved it so much. I did not expected that this book seems a little darker, because my impression of it at first is that it's just a typical crime book but has a fairytale twist. But this book exceeded my expectations. I also love how the author introduces me to original fairytales and it's dark origins. The concept of it really suits the plot. This book has done a very good job at analyzing those fairytales and sometimes gives them a different and fascinating meanings, that sometimes i'm like "wow. I didn't saw it that way before". The narrator also has a very good fascinating habit of describing some things that has a twisty version of detail from a certain fairytale. For example in a crime scene, the main character saw this trail of blood, and then the narrator will compare that trail of blood to the breadcrumbs trail in Hansel and Gretel. I know it's sounds pretty simple but when you read it yourself, it is so good! Most of the things in this book are either has a fairytale connection or a metaphor for a particular fairytale. Although this book has so many fairytale and folklore facts, it has also many facts about history of like statues in Chicago, the news companies, serial killer like H.H. Holmes, and even some history of buildings and streets in Chicago. 

And as what I said, it has so many facts that are represented in certain scenes or dialogues, at first I think it's a little unnecessary, but it is not overwhelming though. I can clearly tell that this certain subject that's being tackled by the narrator is relevant to the story or it is giving context to the theme of the plot. And it makes the storyline even more intriguing. 

As for the main character, Lauren, she is so stubborn. Even though she faced many obstacles throughout the book she keeps trying to get what is needed or what she wants. Which, for my opinion, makes her suited to her job as a detective. Also want to note that this book has a LGBTQIA representation, as Lauren is a bisexual. I also love how Lauren is so open in her therapy. I love it that it portrays therapy in a calming and positive way.

But sometimes, I think of Lauren as annoying because she had this flaws that is absolutely stubborn and in denial. But I also think that the author wrote her this way, which is very interesting to read. This book has also many good characters that are also interesting, they clearly have flaws but they are not that annoying to read, which again, is also interesting. One of my favorite character is Jordan, he's personality is intriguing considering that he's still a teen.

While reading the book, my only problem with it is that sometimes when Lauren says something that is vital to the storyline or the plot, she already acted on it. I just got a little underwhelmed for that because I also want to know how this certain clue or twist happened or how Lauren concluded that twist or revelation.

Overall, I rated this book 4 out of 5 stars. True, I got a little underwhelmed with certain details but it did not stop me from enjoying the book. I love how it surpassed my expectations by giving me a very fascinating read. So, if you are looking for a book about fairytales but a more darker I really recommend that you should give this book a try!
Was this review helpful?
Children of Chicago is Ms. Pelayo’s debut novel and a love story about Chicago, all of Chicago, the good and the bad, throughout time. After college, I lived in what is called Old Town, just north of downtown, and fell in love with the city myself. Ms. Pelayo does a wonderful job as a historical tour guide.  Her protagonist goes for an early morning run through Lincoln park and I can see the same path I jogged over 25 years ago. She took me briefly back to Rosa’s for the blues, which is a wonderful treat.   A night listening to the Blues in Chicago starts with some kid playing a smoking guitar to a rhythm section and you’re damn glad you came to hear him.  Twenty minutes later the headliner comes out and you realize your mistake because he plays even better.  She walks through parks and neighborhoods, and never ever once mentions the abomination that is Chicago Pizza.  They serve it two ways and both ways are wrong.  The protagonist has an unhealthy obsession for coffee, good rich ethnic versions, and burned hours old vat coffee.  This also appeals to me. And then there is all the history of massacres, and tragedy, and violence over the centuries. The love for her city is clearly true and mature, seeing the beauty and the horror, and embracing both.

But this is a horror story after all so let’s get to that.  The blurb says it’s a retelling of the Pied Piper but that is not accurate.  The novel is a continuation of the Pied Piper story. The protagonist is Lauren Medina who is haunted by a tragedy in her past and something that she swears she does not remember.  That tragedy drove her to follow her father’s footsteps as a police officer, but perhaps also served to cut her off from real human companionship. Or maybe it’s the thing she doesn’t remember.  Who can tell? Her father has just passed away, her police partner (who had been her father’s partner) is just retiring, she shoved her husband of one year away, and her new partner doesn’t trust her.  Much of the story involves watching Medina stumble around the city on her own, drinking lots of coffee, and being desperately alone.

Children are killed. Children kill. And slowly a much older monster emerges from the background that may or may not be there at all.  As Medina begins to put the pieces of the puzzle together, both the puzzle of the murders and her own story, the pace quickens.

It is a fabulous book, with rich complex characters, terrific pacing, and a fantastic story for fans of horror fiction.  I absolutely give it my highest recommendation. Oh, and the dialog is wonderful.
Was this review helpful?
I've rarely come across a book which blends and bends genres as well as this one. It was two parts police procedural, two parts horror, and one part historical, and a dash of psych thriller.  There were so many times I recalled reading Devil in the White City while being fully engaged in this story, and that, to me, is a major compliment. I found this to be a fast read, one which consistently pulled me back into the book when I should have been doing other things. The story was fresh, unpredictable, fun.
Was this review helpful?
Is Chicago a cursed city? Detective Lauren Medina ask herself this question a lot while trying to figure out who is killing teens in the city.

Detective Lauren Medina has had to deal with a lot starting with her younger sister drowning when they were younger, then her stepmother's suicide and now that she is an adult she has to bury her father. He was a detective and one of the reasons that Medina is also a detective and it has caused a bit of a ruckus within the force because they think she only made it to detective so young because of her father. Her temper and record for in the line of fire shootings and beatings of criminals in her custody hasn't helped things either. It has made those in town leery of her and her new partner isn't real sure of her himself and keeps asking her questions about what happened when she was young. Lauren doesn't remember the day her sister died or what happened, but Van keeps asking her.

When Medina pulls up to a crime scene and sees the words "Pied Piper" her worst fears are coming true. He is back and he wants his payment. There is a book of Grimm's Fairy Tales at the crime scene and she knows there is a connection. The only thing is nobody else is going to believe her that there is a certain rhyme that you can say in a particular book that brings out the Pied Piper.

When two more teens are killed and another two are caught and jailed for the crime she is  certain it's all part of the Pied Piper and it's all connected to her more than she wants to think about and she is the only one who can figure things out.

So I thought this was a pretty decent kind of supernatural suspense with horror elements. It felt more like a detective novel then horror, but it did have some really creepy elements to it. The story of the Pied Piper was pretty cool, it takes the story and twist it a bit and makes it sort of a Bloody Mary or Candyman type story. If you say the rhyme in a mirror the Pied Piper will appear but instead of killing you right then he will kill someone for you, but what most don't realize is he expects a payment!

The author is from Chicago so I am going to have to believe that a lot of the information on the city is true. I did look up to see if the killers mentioned where actually from Chicago and it really gave that city a creepy vibe to think about how many killers have come from that  city! I mean we all know it's a violent city so it was the perfect place for a Pied Piper story.

I wasn't a fan of the bad cop stereotype, it's not really a good thing for this day and age. Although there is a reason for it that you find out about at the end I could see it turning some people off. Medina has an attitude and temper and it seems like she just gets away with way to many things as a cop which might trigger some.

I was also not a huge fan of the end and the big reveal. The author is either leaving it open ended which I hate or leaving it for a sequel (if this is true not sure if I would want to read it). It was still a decent read and I know some will enjoy it while others might not.
Was this review helpful?
Pelayo's novel is a disturbing retelling of the Pied Piper tale. Second generation Chicago cop, Lauren Medina is on a the trail of a monster who is killing the children in Chicago's westside. They're calling the killer the "Pied Piper,"  named for the graffiti tag at the crime scenes. But this case strikes too close to home for Medina, who has a dark tragedy in her own past that is eerily similar to the crimes. 

Pelayo blends fairytales and crime against the gritty backdrop of urban Chicago. A thrilling book, perfect for fans of paranormal and crime fiction alike. Would recommend to fans of Neil Gaiman and Christina Henry.
Was this review helpful?
HOLY WOW! What a fantastic ride this was!!!

This book follows Lauren on her beat as a homicide detective in the city of Chicago. Kids keep dying and she knows why. 

From the very beginning, this book grabbed my attention and held it until the very end. I am in love with this book!!! This is a MUST READ for thriller lovers, for mystery lovers, for paranormal lovers, for readers in general! This author is amazing and I know that this book will stick with me for a long while!!!
Was this review helpful?
This book just didn't know what it wanted to be. Part detailed history lesson, part horror, part folklore, part cop centered mystery, it never works as any of these. Also, it suffers from what I would expect from new authors - stilted dialogue, poor structure / story organization, etc

It could have been a taut horror piece, but the big blocks of history lesson break up any tension and foreshadowing was clunky, leading to every twist or reveal falling flat. I love history, but the giant monologues deflated me every time they appeared. The author obviously loves Chicago, but this form of sharing doesn't invite the audience to share in that. 

The anti-hero aspect could have been interesting, but the amnesia plot device fails (see clunky foreshadowing that forgets the logic system set up for the Piper), and, once again, the reveal is something that you thought was already established 100 pages ago. My first reaction when finishing the book - that's the end? Ok that says About the Author, so apparently... So many important aspects glossed over that I expected to have development or closure were just left. Some of these were very important to address - other reviewers have pointed out the problems inherent in a cop killing children - multiple times- and being protected by nepotism. I understand how this fits in the plot, but it needed significantly more attention.

This was all the more disappointing because there are some great and unique ideas here. Like another reviewer said, it felt like a rough draft. 

Thank you to Cynthia Pelayo, Agora books, and Netgalley for an advance ebook in exchange for an honest opinion.
Was this review helpful?
Cynthia Pelayo is here to remind us of the message within The Pied Piper of Hamelin. Keep your promise. Pay what you owe. Otherwise, he will take your children. 

The storyline of Children of Chicago is an incredibly promising one. The creepy foreshadowing kept me turning the page and Pelayo successfully created some vividly chilling horror scenes. Her idea here was creative and, had I liked this more, I might even call it frightening. I think, at the very least, the story started off well. Beyond that, there wasn’t much that I enjoyed.

The writing is terribly choppy. It was confusing at times because of how poorly connected the structure seemed to be. Mind you, I did read the ARC and perhaps the final product will be cleaned up a bit. But, in terms of flow, this reads like a slow drip from a leaky faucet.

This often felt less like a story and more like a deluge of information. Some of the info dump did benefit the narrative, but most of it bore little to no relevance. These drawn out details weren’t interesting to me. It’s possible that this could have been an effectively creepy novella, but as a full novel with so much filler, I was mostly dissatisfied.

I tend to gravitate toward retellings of old, familiar stories. I love inventive new twists on tales that have long intrigued me and I always appreciate the fun nods toward the originals. Although the author did build a unique story around The Pied Piper of Hamelin, there weren’t any subtle nods. Instead, readers are continuously told where the inspiration was drawn from, which didn’t just revolve around The Pied Piper, but other classic tales and movies as well. I like it when authors trust their readers enough to draw parallels and trust themselves enough to build a story that doesn’t require overexplaining. I hope Pelayo will gain that confidence as a writer down the line, but I didn’t see evidence of it here.

While the conclusion was certainly shocking, it was the type of ending I despise and, even if I could have applauded its disturbing nature, there were aspects that just seemed silly to me. 

Reviews like this will always be my least favorite to write. I take no joy in criticizing, but to tell you I felt differently about this book would be a lie. Despite my feelings on it, I’m still enthusiastic about reading Pelayo’s poetry book Into the Forest and All the Way Through. I’m not writing her off as an author just yet.

The experience one has with a book is largely influenced by what they hope to get out of it. If you’re looking for some brutal horror surrounding an eerie concept, I’d say you should still give this one a chance. You might find you like it better than I did.

I am immensely grateful to the publisher and NetGalley for my digital review copy. All opinions are my own.
Was this review helpful?
“I guess I don’t know what I’m trying to say other than Chicago’s always been the kind of place to breed and attract tragedy.  It’s not right, but something about this place seems to draw the worst in people.”

Whimsical and gruesome are the two best adjectives I can use to describe this terrifying read.  When children start showing up mutilated in a Lagoon near a city park already infested with crime, it’s up to homicide detective Lauren Medina to solve the riddle behind the slayings.  She already has a dark and superstitious past involving her personal family, and the psychological aspects of her personal struggles with the case are feasible and haunting.  As the case progresses, clues and various references draw her into the fairytale kingdom, particularly with Brothers Grimm, and “The Pied Piper.”

I love Chicago.  My parents are from the region, and growing up, I frequented the various institutions, universities, and parks that the city has to offer.  I’m also familiar with the city’s dark and threatening past-serial killers, the mafia, various scandals-and Pelayo doesn’t shy away from this idea.  The story is richly encased in Chicago’s history, and the author is precise and descriptive with every statue, cemetery, and historical landmark described.  

Childhood abductions, sadly, also run rampant in Chicago, and it was justifiable for Pelayo to compare  the rat infested tale “Pied Piper” with the urban decline and hope for the American youth. ”Children of Chicago” might raise awareness.
Was this review helpful?
CHILDREN OF CHICAGO – by Cynthia Pelayo
Released - February 9, 2021
‘Legends, myths, and lore all came from somewhere, and, as Lauren discovered, all came back.’
‘When Detective Lauren Medina sees the calling card at a murder scene in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood, she knows the Pied Piper has returned.’
I  love the way Pelayo sprinkled bits and pieces of Chicago’s history throughout the narrative (both the good and the bad), including the tangible history on view today, the likes of THE DREAM LADY in Lincoln Park—the hag depicted in granite on its base—is particularly disturbing in its juxtaposition with the angelic bronze figure and sleeping children on top, which lends to the darker side of the book as does the folktales of Brothers Grimm at the core of the story—Love It! 
Quite a bit is revealed early on, so the ending doesn’t hold a lot in the way of a big reveal or surprises that I was hoping for in the conclusion.
Pelayo wields some awesome cringe-worthy moments throughout, imagery that feels forever embedded in my mind. I can honestly say sleep may not be peaceful for me tonight.
Thank you, NetGalley and Agora Books Publishing, for loaning me an eGalley of CHILDREN OF CHICAGO in the request of an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I really liked the fairy tale elements in the book. The premise of the Pied Piper being real and offering children a solution to their problems is brilliant. It's cool to see how his influence is reminiscent of Bloody Mary and Slender Man. Some scenes are spooky with hints of fantasy which I enjoyed.

However, I wasn’t a fan of the superficial handling of issues like gang violence and poverty. Instead of proper characterisations, we get Wiki-like infodumps of Chicago’s history. I also have a problem with the portrayal of the main character, Lauren. As a POC I'm tired of stories about police aggression so reading about Lauren abusing her authority and intimidating people (including teenagers) was unpalatable. Especially since there's no repercussion to her actions. I also found the ending unsatisfying. Overall, a dark fairy tale entry with real-world touches that might entertain other readers, but not for me.
Was this review helpful?
This horror/thriller was quite creepy. I learned quite a bit about fairytales and the history of Chicago. You can really tell that the author has a passion for both. It is definitely worth a read!
Was this review helpful?
A delightful mix of murder, the paranormal and fairy tales. I found this to be really interesting, gritty, and just the right kind of scary. It can get a little intense with all the Chicago details, and there is some confusion when there are time jumps/ character POV changes, but overall it’s a solid story.
Was this review helpful?
The Children of Chicago are killing each other. Are there hints in local graffiti of their motive? Who or what is Pied Piper?

Lauren is a troubled person. Only a police detective for a year, she has already killed one person in self-defense. Worse, she is literally haunted by her dead younger sister, Marie, who she failed to save from drowning when only fourteen herself. Lauren is convinced that Marie’s death was no accident.

I’m always up for some genre-mashing and Children of Chicago delivers. Mixing a dark fairy tale with horror and a police procedural is definitely innovative. The novel is a harrowing read where you are compelled to read to the end while also feeling kind of scared of what’s to come. The suspenseful conclusion was riveting. 5 stars for this atmospheric and enthralling novel!

Thanks to Agora Books, Polis Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Loved this fresh modern retelling of The Pied Piper. Cynthia's done a great job here.
Its part crime thriller, part horror, part fantasy. It's kind of what you expect and hope it'll be, but it's also a little darker than you might think, too.
Believe me though, that's a good thing.
It's just great writing all the way through.
Pick this one up, folks.
Its a 3.5 for me, but definitely rounding this up to a 4.
It deserves it.
Fun was had.
Was this review helpful?
Disclaimer: Thank you to NetGalley and Polis Books for providing me an e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Detective Lauren Medina, reeling from the recent death of her father and an impending divorce, is called out to a murder scene of a teenaged girl. Expecting but not finding evidence of gang violence, Medina is stunned to see a piece of graffiti that reads PIED PIPER. Her partner thinks nothing of it, insisting that it is a new tagger trying to get his name out, but it stirs feelings of dread in Medina as that same symbol was seen at the scene of her younger sister's tragic death years before.

As there are cases of kids killing other kids, and more and more sightings of the PIED PIPER graffiti all over Chicago, Lauren is racing to find out how the cases of murdered kids are connected and how the Pied Piper is connected to it all.

This book is Cynthia Pelayo's love letter to her beloved Chicago. It is honest and unflinching, invoking both Walt Disney and Frank L. Baum in contrast to H.H. Holmes and The Chicago Strangler. The way she weaves the history of the city in with the stories of crime gives Chicago itself the feeling of a gritty fairy tale.

The book is gripping and fast paced and there are dark, gory elements that will get your heart pumping. I thoroughly enjoyed this dark, gripping story and didn't want it to end. 

#ChildrenofChicago #NetGalley
Was this review helpful?
A very interesting combination of your typical detective story with an investigation, interviews, suspects and supernatural horror. A twist on fairy tales and a dark retelling of the Pied Piper. Similar to Bloody Mary or Candyman if you call the Pied Piper it will have consequences. Nothing is for free.

Lauren, a coffee addict and detective that has to prove daily that she knows how to do her job is trying to leave her traumatic past behind but she will be confronted with it and will not be able to hide from it anymore.

Apart from the murdered teenagers, we also follow some students that are aware of the tales that are being told about the Pied Piper.

We get to explore in depth the origins and possible theories about where fairy tales come from. There is so much information about that and about Chicago, the city history and crime gangs that the book started to feel too info dumpy for me and started taking me away from the thrill and the tension of the investigation.
Was this review helpful?