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In the sweltering summer of 1915, Pin, the fourteen-year-old daughter of a carnival fortune-teller, dresses as a boy and joins a teenage gang that roams the famous Riverview amusement park, looking for trouble.
Unbeknownst to the well-heeled city-dwellers and visitors who come to enjoy the midway, the park is also host to a ruthless killer who uses the shadows of the dark carnival attractions to conduct his crimes. When Pin sees a man enter the Hell Gate ride with a young girl, and emerge alone, she knows that something horrific has occurred.
The crime will lead her to the iconic outsider artist Henry Darger, a brilliant but seemingly mad man. Together, the two navigate the seedy underbelly of a changing city to uncover a murderer few even know to look for.
"This book contains a rare kind of perfection: Elizabeth Hand's rough, observant magic draws into its circle great historical accuracy, a cross-dressing central protagonist, a wonderfully tender portrait of the great Outsider Artist Henry Darger, a vibrant thriller plot, reflections on gender and its place in civic order, a helpful Ben Hecht, and one of the greatest climactic drop-the-mic moments I've ever read—and does all this while patiently setting into place the warm emotional armatures that make Curious Toys so moving." —Peter Straub
"A well-crafted and deliciously unsettling period thriller." —Booklist (starred review)
"Hand is a mage of the page.... [Curious Toys] will enchant those who like tough-girl protagonists and antiheroes, as well as fans of historical crime fiction." —Library Journal (starred review)
"Curious Toys is wonderful! I stayed up late two nights in a row, transported. It will be catnip for readers who love Chicago, circuses, cross-dressers, and early cinema." —Audrey Niffenegger, bestselling author of The Time-Traveler's Wife
"Richly imaginative and psychologically complex." —Kirkus Reviews