Cover Image: Children of Chicago

Children of Chicago

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Member Reviews

Children of Chicago by Cynthia Pelayo was a spine-tingling mystery with a supernatural twist and a sprinkling of fairy tale. As it begins, we are dropped into aftermath of a violent crime, and the story and action never lets up. We flash through time and visions (or are they?) with Detective Lauren Medina, the haunted, deeply flawed and unreliable main character. I was asked by a friend about the book I was reading, and I honestly replied that "I have NO idea what's going on, but I'm loving every page of it" and it was true. It's almost hard to believe that this is the authors debut novel. It's well-written, creepy, and obviously comprehensively-researched. I can't wait for more from the author, and (hint-hint) this would probably make for an AMAZING movie. Don't miss this one. 
I am so grateful to the author, Agora Books, and Netgalley for providing me with the opportunity to read Children of Chicago in return for my honest opinion.
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When we describe someone as haunted, we usually mean that they exhibit a palpable sadness or sense of guilt. We aren’t usually talking about someone as angry as Lauren Medina, the protagonist of Cynthia Pelayo’s Children of Chicago. Lauren is a very angry woman. Her anger has made her a very dangerous member of the Chicago Police Department. Her anger is a weapon that keeps anyone from looking for its root cause. But then, if people know what was really going on, would they even believe Lauren?

Lauren is haunted by a fairy tale. This is not a metaphor. She is haunted by a character straight out of one of our oldest stories: the Pied Piper. We meet Lauren at the scene of yet another senseless gun crime in one of Chicago’s poorer neighborhoods. As Lauren and her partner scope out the scene and start to take witness statements, Lauren spots a piece of graffiti that frightens her to her core. This graffiti reminds her of her little sister’s drowning, a crime that Lauren refuses to let herself think about. This fear—and the disapproval of her colleagues for her trigger-happiness—adds to the pressure Lauren feels while trying to solve the case. The stress turns the whole book into a pressure cooker.

Children of Chicago moves back and forth through time. In the present, Lauren chases clues about the Pied Piper while her colleagues think she’s unstable. In the past, we see Lauren’s troubled home life and the reasons why she’s so very angry, so much of the time. We also see two young perpetrators after they’ve committed their crime, attempting to appease the Pied Piper and avoid spilling the beans to the cops, their lawyers, and their psychologists. This book never went in the direction I expected it to, even though I recognize the time and narrator shift devices. Pelayo uses them in some very creative ways.

I had some trouble with this book. On the one hand, this book is very original. I really appreciated the supernatural touches. On the other, I struggled with Lauren’s propensity for violence. Recent years have had me questioning the way that police tend to be glorified in mysteries and thrillers. They’re almost always the heroes. Even when they bend the rules, we see them (usually) working towards a greater good. There are strong clues in Children of Chicago that Lauren’s acts of violence are points of conflict with Chicagoans and other members of the police force, but there are so many that I had a hard time believing that Lauren would still be in active service. She should have been benched. This isn’t meant as a criticism of Pelayo, who, as I said, acknowledges how problematic Lauren is. Rather, I just feel surprised at this book, at this time.
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A new, darker take on the legend of the Pied Piper. I loved everything about this novel, but especially the way Cina Pelayo wasn’t afraid to take on some of the real issues the community of Chicago faces. She’s written characters you can relate to, even when you can’t quite tell if they’re reliable. Her depictions of the city are spot on, and her love for her hometown really shines through. There were spots where the story became predictable, but the ending truly took me by surprise. Beautifully written, and a thoroughly engaging story from start to finish. Highly recommend!
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This is a 10-star read. I was hoping to talk about the perfect mashup of all my interests. Chicago (geographically accurate!) Grimm's Pied Piper, and a VI Warshesky type MC. I was all in at the description; now, I'm telling every adult I know to go get this book after reading and digesting. It's dark and yet perfect for these snowy days when you want to be a little scared. I'll be shocked if it isn't a movie at some point.
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CHILDREN OF CHICAGO is a caffeine-fueled story that is a melting pot of crime, horror, and myth, like the city itself. It is ever-changing—always building upon itself, but has it really? Something about this case is different from the start but, for Homicide Detective Medina, something all too familiar is gnawing at her. She is a wounded animal suffering tragic loss, and while the scabs may have hardened, have they have left scar tissue, and the wounds are still there. And the children are dying. 

This is a well-crafted story drenched in history and lore. Don’t expect Hollywood- or even a New York-ending. This is Chicago, and it has its own history. Has Cynthia Pelayo created a new Slenderman? Time will tell, but if it is anything like the story she has crafted, I certainly hope not. This is the first of what I know will be many great reads from this author for me. Thank you to NetGalley and Polis Books for allowing me an early lead of this e-ARC. If it isn’t already on your TBR pile, it should be. And if it already is, you should move it to the top. It would make a great read to kick off the 12th annual Women in Horror Month. It is out in early February 2021.
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I never knew that is a dark side for fairy tales, and, reading this book made me look for the folklore. I found it more than interesting. This book is a grim retelling of Piped Piper story with lots of horror elements. Great read!
Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and the author for the free copy.
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Book Review 

The Children of Chicago 
Cynthia Pelayo

Thank you to @ and @ for this ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

This is a unique combination of thriller, horror, and paranormal meets fairytale retelling. I was Intrigued from the first chapter until the very last word. I have not come across anything like this before. This is a must read for fans of all things dark, creepy, and unsettling! 

Based off the Grim Brothers story, The Pied Piper , comes a tale of murder in Chicago surrounding a Homicide detective and the city’s teenagers. 

The children of Chicago gives us a dark look at how a fairytale set in modern day plays out. I had a feeling of foreboding, throughout the whole book. It gave off such a sinister vibe I was hesitant to look in any mirrors or trees while reading it! I definitely was creeped out by the vibe of this book. 

I really enjoyed the writers view on how fairytales have been viewed, and changed over the centuries as people evolved and changed. There was a lot of good character discussions pertaining to the truth of the stories, and where they came from. 

Overall I think this was pretty good book. It was a little scary, it was dark, it had great character dialogue. It was a combination of several genres, and had the right mix of elements to make it all fall into place. 

It gave me childhood flashes of being dared to repeat Bloody Mary three times in the mirror. 

Move over Bloody Mary, you are being replaced by the Pied Piper.
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An unbelievably spine-chilling, modern take on the Pied Piper fairy tale. It's a story that follows the life of Lauren Medina, a Chicago police officer with a dark past. She is investigating the murders of high schoolers in the Chicago area that are starting to have startling similarities to the murder of her own younger sister two decades prior. As events begin to unravel it will be up to Lauren to figure out what she is forgetting about her past and how it connects to the cases of modern day, and she has until the Pied Piper comes for what is his.  “The Children of Chicago” by Cynthia Pelayo is an absolutely breathtaking story and you will find yourself wanting more by the end. 
	I was given an Ecopy of “The Children of Chicago” to read and review by Netgalley and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by how much I genuinely enjoyed this story. If you’ve read the concept of a supernatural/thriller about the Pied Piper it kind of makes you scratch your head at what a strange idea it is. But as with all things in my life I went into it feet first not knowing exactly what to expect. I mean, if we are going to be realistic for a second the idea of a adult book having a fairy tale element can either be a huge flop or a huge success and I fully believe “The Children of Chicago” will be a success. 
It has everything you crave and need in a good story, three dimensional characters who are deeply flawed, a bad guy who messes with you when no one else can see him and lastly just really good writing. Cynthia Pelayo has remarked before on the podcast “Books in the Freezer” that she used to be a journalist and it really shows in her writing. There is no messing around. She gets to the point while informing the reader and playing out the events in the story as though they are in real time. I personally wouldn’t be surprised if this is what skyrockets Ms. Pelayo to the best seller lists and hopefully a movie in the future. All in all it was everything I could have wanted and everything I didn’t realize I needed. Happy Reading! x
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I received an e-Galley ARC of Children of Chicago, authored by Cynthia Pelayo, from NetGalley and the publisher Polis Books; below is my honest review, freely given. I am thankful for this opportunity.

I rated this novel 5 stars. I am of the camp that the first horror stories came in the form of fairy tales and cautionary tales for children; not all that glitters is gold, not every hand outstretched is in kindness. Beware children, for you are so small and the world is so big…

I could imagine myself wrapped in a thick quilt, curled protectively around a steaming cup of tea (decorated with foxes, or perhaps skulls and beetles) as I crack open a leather and cloth bound tome that begins and ends as the title promises, with the children of Chicago.

My reality had a comfy blanket, non-pill fleece, sweet tea instead of hot (grey plastic cup- very practical), and my kindle app; but I was entranced from the opening chapter all the same. 

Seeing Chicago through two lenses, one rosy, the other achingly clear to all it’s failings, read more aggrieved than a love letter, more entangled than simply a history lesson; this was a cry for intervention. A heartbroken wail for the city to be better, giving a listing of all the beauty (natural and built) that lies hidden, buried, under the weight of the detritus and bodies left from the demons rampant within its gates. Combine this with the ever increasing pace of a tense police case entwined with fairy tale lore, and this vibrant novel can safely be called a favorite of mine even before its release date.
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Children of Chicago is a creepy retelling of The Pied Piper. As a teenager (not a child!), I read the Grimm's Fairy Tales and enjoyed their strange stories. Children Of Chicago is a combination of Horror and Fairy Tale History, set in Chicago. I've never been to USA but the descriptions of Chicago, the history and the surrounding Park lands and lakes drew me into the story. Detective Lauren Medina is a complex character. Even though she has a dark past, I liked her at the end even when her past is revealed. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my digital copy.
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This retelling of The Pied Piper keeps all of the fairy tale grimness and horror and adds a police detective in modern day Chicago. Being from Chicago myself, I appreciated all the facts about the cities history woven in: about it's crime, melting pot status, and the story weavers it birthed alongside the murderous atrocities. The detective Lauren is an unreliable narrator as she can't remember much of the tragedy around the death of her sister when she was younger and her career is plagued with too many gun discharges. Now a familiar tagger is appearing along with murders of kids and Lauren takes it upon herself to unfold the case as her past collides with the present. 

Children of Chicago is a gritty and gripping read from the start. Cynthia Pelayo is wonderful at setting the tone and mood of the dirty streets and dark mysterious parks of inner city Chicago. Some of the characters could have been fleshed out better, but it leaves me to wonder if this story will be part of a series, or maybe have a sequel. I would love to revisit Lauren and her troubles again in this way.
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I went into it thinking it's a thriller with strong horror vibes, but I was wrong. Although this is quite a blend of crime, thrill, and horror, it is not a true thriller and is mainly based on supernatural elements. That said it sure held my attention till the very end. It's a mishmash of the legend of Pied Piper, Slender man, and true crime cases. It's deliciously creepy, eerie, super atmospheric, and with vivid imagery that truly sent a chill up my spine, I honestly loved the imagery so much, I wonder how good this would look on screen. I'd sure be on the lookout for other books by this author.

But that said, there sure were a few problems. I understand that I got this as an uncorrected proof copy from Netgalley but I should not go without mentioning that this needs some serious polishing, I felt like the flow was lacking at some points, the timelines are merged and in so many instances the most important part of a scene went in a wink without actually getting registered and I had to go back and read things again to make sense of what happened. 

But all in all, it's a very fast, enjoyable read. Recommended for horror aficionados. 3.5 stars rounded off to 4. 

Thanks to Netgalley, publishers, and the author for the eARC of #ChildrenfChicago.
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Cynthia Pelayo's Children of Chicago is a haunting retelling of the age old Pied Piper nursery rhyme. It is the perfect mix of mystery and horror! I absolutely loved this book! I only wish she would have gave us more at the end. I felt like I was left hanging! All in all I give this book 5 stars.

 Detective Laura Medina has a troubled past and death seems to follow wherever she goes. In crime ridden Chicago, children continue to die and unusual graffiti is spray painted near each crime scene. As Detective Medina begins to unravel these cases she finds herself falling deeper into the world of fairy tales and folklore. Is it possible an imaginary character from a fairy tale is responsible for these crimes? As she learns more about the murders she begins to remember details regarding her own sister's mysterious death. Can she find who is taking Chicago's children before another one dies?
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There are a lot of comparisons that sprang to mind upon reading Cynthia Pelayo’s Children of Chicago, all of them good and all of them noteworthy as elements of craft – moments of having to stop reading the book to contemplate exactly what it reminded me of, and why. I say that as a complement to the Author – I really liked where she is heading, and it’s made me all the more excited for “Into the forest and all the way through”, but I’ll come to that in a while.

There are touches of Gaiman, to be sure, in the mix of magical and horror, real and fantasy, the taking of a simple fairy tale and looking at it through an unfiltered blood lens. There’s king in there too, the supernatural abilities of the monster almost IT like in presentation, reality-warping to accommodate the antagonist, an otherworldly god, reduced in status to a fairy tale. There was also something early-Patterson (good – still fighting Patterson) about one of the children, Fin, that made me constantly think she was on the verge of saying “cool beans”. As I said, moments of craft that forced me to stop and admire the construction of the tale, but Pelayo brings her own distinct interests into the book in form of her own voice - that of detail-rich history and love of architecture, and fleshes out the combination of magic and mystery lore that Gaiman would skip, catches the historical observations of King but injects it with a love of the subject – Chicago is her own home - and recognizes that simple truth that Patterson never understood – that sometimes there is no winner to be had, no happy ending in sight.

To summarize without spoilers, the book is a study of the basis of one of Grimm’s fairy tales, and then taking that basis and superimposing it on today’s hard-boiled society. The Mc is a hardened female homicide detective, with a haunted past – a past which intrudes her ability to solve a spree of killings to which she holds a crucial key in solving, though solving the case demands an accounting.

There are unusual memory shifts employed – crucial memories are remembered in time to the action, inserted in the middle of the moment without warning, and the effect is interesting – it’s like being hit with lost information, a sudden memory whiplash, to reflect the same effect happening to the MC. There are history drops, wonderfully rich which beg the reader stop and go google – and an almost easter egg approach to the information – HH Holmes popping up a tip of the hat to Tantlingers poetry? I’d love to think so.

The book is written as a tragedy, I think It’s fair to say that we are slowly working toward an inevitable conclusion with regards the MC’s sister and stepmother, but it is the long, drawn-out descent that makes this book memorable. Finn is represented wonderfully, Mo likewise. There are social commentary moments that had me laughing as a European – The American Penchant of wearing shoes into the house always freaked me out, here we have the MC considering if someone’s shoes would be traipsing brain tissue and blood into her house. A horrific thought, yet ironically more or less the exact thing I think of every time I watch an American tv show. That is probably stereotyping on my part, and I am dutifully sorry. My bad. But it was nice to see reflected here.
One detail I missed – We never find out if the thing Mo bargained over was accomplished – It left me wondering on his motivation, but that’s my nerdiness coming out.

To tie this all up – it’s left me excited to read Cynthia’s (Can I call you that?) newest poetry book, Into the forest… because it’s based on true crimes – and that is the thing that really works well here – I think Mrs Pelayo is a researcher – it drips through her detail and infuses the reader with the same longing to find out information, explore the detail, and to come to the same horrific conclusions that she has.

I really liked this. This is a monster for the 2020s.

Full disclosure – I received a copy of this book as an ARC in return for a review, but also full disclosure, I liked it so much I bought my own copy after reading it anyway, It will serve as a great tour guide should I ever manage to get to Chicago.
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Sometimes, you review a book and you’re all cool – like, why yes this certainly deserves five stars.


Yup…this is the latter.

Children of Chicago can best be described as Candyman meets Slenderman meets The Brothers Grimm…but with a style all its own.

This is a sharp, dark, adventure of a read that you will not want to put down.

I finished this a couple of weeks ago, but haven’t had time to review it and I still think about it.  This one will get a reread.


•	ARC Provided via Net Galley
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This was quite a pleasant surprise! If you're looking for or have been curious about any dark re-tellings of classic fairytales, look no further than "Children of Chicago".

There was something about the way this read that reminded me a lot of Alex North's "The Shadows", albeit these are two completely different storylines. I loved the police procedural aspects mixed with true elements of horror & the supernatural - everything was extremely effective here, including the inclusion of the Pied Piper's fairytale. I wasn't too familiar with the origins behind his story, but oh man does it ever add to the creep factor here. I love a complex heroine & Pelayo delivered just that with Lauren - it was interesting seeing how her story played out, especially as more of her secrets were revealed.

This was a truly fun, original read & I can't wait to see what Pelayo does next! Thank you so much to Cynthia Pelayo, NetGalley, & Agora Books for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review!
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"Children of Chicago" is an #ownvoices thriller by author Cynthia Pelayo. It starts off with Lauren Guerrero, a detective at a gruesome crime scene. Most people at her job have a strong dislike toward Lauren for several reasons, and she has no shortage of other problems. Her police partner is retiring, and she's still haunted by a cold case, that of her sister, who was murdered years ago. The graffiti tags for the same killer from then are what this latest murder invokes.   

One of the aspects of the intense characterization I enjoyed was the fact that Lauren attends therapy sessions. Too many times in similar stories, there's a rushed pacing and it feels like things are set to "fast forward" or the police detective protagonist doesn't get much characterization, so they tend not to make a connection with the reader. In this case, Lauren Guerrero can give Clarice from 'The Silence of the Lambs' a run for her money. 

There are more teenagers involved and connected to the first murder that the novel opens with. These classmates are going on a field trip to the Newberry Library, which for library nerds like myself, is a very interesting locale. Here is where the second major aspect of the plot comes into play. It would do this novel a great disservice to say simply that Grimm's Fairy Tales bear a lot of weight and significance in it -- the elements invoked are crucial to the plot, but also help the protagonist put together the pieces of her life, which is an even more important battle. 

Lauren is a strong protagonist, and one you will root for. She is also believable and vulnerable. She is not a macho female character stereotype who crushes beer bottles on her head or establishes how "tough" she is by beating up a bunch of guys for no reason. Lauren resonates with the reader emotionally, right up until the last gut punch twist reveal. 

"Children of Chicago" should be on every single Top 10 of 2021 list of book roundups. It deserves to win an Edgar Award, other crime and thriller awards, and to be recognized for how powerful of a novel it is.  Guillermo del Toro needs to make this into a film. 

Next time someone gives you the pathetic excuse that they want to read more Latinx authors but 'don't know any,' shove this book in their face and tell them that Cynthia Pelayo should be the first name on their list. She is doing some of the grittiest, hardest-hitting, emotionally impactful crime and horror today. Publishers who promise that they are taking the #WeNeedDiverseBooks mandate seriously but only provide lip service and then continue with #PublishingSoWhite? Publish more authors like Cynthia. They are out there. They are brilliant at what they do. Their stories are beyond anything you can imagine, and it's time for you all to put your money where your mouth is.
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A deep dive into a complex character, and a novel that blends fairy tales with horror in a modern setting. You will feel Chicago inside the pages. This book grabs your hand and leads you along by teasing secrets, and then revealing them in splendid ways. A book  of psychological and 'family lineage' horror. A remarkable read.
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I loved this book. Fairy tales and horror mixed is my cup of tea. Medina is a complicated character, but nicely developed. The story is captivating and pulls in the reader. Bravo to this writer.
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Children of Chicago is a suspenseful thriller of a Chicago detective that takes us on a ride throughout my hometown Chicago.  The fact that it is set in Chicago, my hometown, and the cover picture of Humboldt Park's signature boathouse captured me.  The author gave a bit of a Chicago history lesson throughout the story which surprised and peaked my interest even more so.  I enjoyed the ability to visualize myself throughout the areas Pelayo mentioned.  She really took us on a tour of Chicago as well as a mental tour of the creepy remake of Pied Piper.  This is the first I have heard of Cynthia Pelayo and I will continue to look out for any other work she has.
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