The Peculiarities

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Pub Date 07 Sep 2021 | Archive Date 06 Oct 2021

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A Buzzfeed Best Book of the Month

"Intricate plotting, exquisite pacing, crackling suspense, and fascinating historical rabbit hole revelations.”
New York Journal of Books

“Liss is a superb writer.”

From popular historical fiction author David Liss (A Conspiracy of Paper) comes the tale of a clueless young man embroiled in a deadly supernatural mystery in Victorian London. Rooted in strange conspiracies and secret societies, this absurdist comedic romp combines strange bedfellows with murderous creatures, resulting in an unexpectedly delightful consequences.

“Highly recommended.” —Jonathan Maberry, author of V-Wars and Ink

All of his life, Thomas Thresher has been free of obligation and responsibility. But that is all over now. He is a twenty-three-year-old man whose best days are behind him. Thomas’s older brother Walter has trapped him in a tedious clerical job at the family bank in London, and Thomas is expected to wed a wealthy young woman in whom he has no interest.

But Thomas has more serious problems than those of a disaffected young man. There are irregularities at the bank he cannot explain. His childhood friend has mysteriously turned up dead. Worse, a verdant skin malady has infected him: leaves have begun sprouting on his skin. Thomas must conclude that it is due to the long-rumored Peculiarities. London’s famous grey fog has been concealing a rash of unnatural afflictions—and worse, the murderous Elegants.

As Thomas grows leafier, the conspiracies surrounding him become more apparent. He cannot determine whom to trust: his own family; his banking co-workers and superiors; the beautiful widow of his companion; the woman he is to marry. Perhaps a lycanthropic medium and the members of a secret occult society . . . including a strange man named Aleister Crowley.

A Buzzfeed Best Book of the Month

"Intricate plotting, exquisite pacing, crackling suspense, and fascinating historical rabbit hole revelations.”
New York Journal of Books

“Liss is a superb writer.”

A Note From the Publisher

David Liss is the author of fourteen novels, as well as numerous novellas, short stories, and comics. His previous books include A Conspiracy of Paper which was named a New York Times Notable Book and won the 2001 Barry, Macavity and Edgar Awards. The Coffee Trader (2003) was also named a New York Times Notable Book and was selected by the New York Public Library as one of the year’s 25 Books to Remember. He is also the author of the middle grade Randoms series. Many of Liss’s novels are currently being developed for television or film. He has worked on numerous comics projects, including Black Panther and Mystery Men for Marvel, The Spider and Green Hornet for Dynamite, and Angelica Tomorrow. Liss lives in San Antonio with his wife and children.

David Liss is the author of fourteen novels, as well as numerous novellas, short stories, and comics. His previous books include A Conspiracy of Paper which was named a New York Times Notable Book...

Advance Praise

“Wry, witty, twisty and tricky, The Peculiarities will slowly draw you into Liss’s strange world of magic and monsters, and compel you to pay attention no matter how you might prefer to look away. An involving take on the mysteries of myths and mathematics that have been embedded in our collective consciousness.”
—Shana Abé, New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Second Mrs. Astor

“David Liss's winning supernatural mystery will charm readers of fantastic Victorian fiction.”
—Shelf Awareness

“Even as The Peculiarities veers far from the Benjamin Weaver template into strange and unsettling new terrain, infused with dark magic and vivid body horror, it should delight and surprise those who reveled in the intricate plotting, exquisite pacing, crackling suspense, and fascinating historical rabbit hole revelations that distinguished his earlier work.”
—New York Journal of Books

“David Liss leans into early 20th century occult thinking with the same mystical fervor as Crowley, Mathers, and Yeats—the holy trinity of the era.”
—Mark Teppo, author of the Codex of Souls series

“In The Peculiarities, David Liss brings his mastery of historical writing to bear on a Victorian tale of weird transformation. There’s a strange alchemy at work in this novel where the fantastic lives alongside reality and both are truly frightening and humorous at the same time. This is a fun, horrific, engaging mystery, both for the story and for watching an accomplished writer stepping out into new territory.”
—Jeffrey Ford, author of A Natural History of Hell

“Fascinating events, surprising at first but completely believable. Characters I cared about more with each page. And best of all, it made me think, and go on thinking as one idea sprang to another, and on, and on. That is the greatest gift a writer can give.”
—Anne Perry, New York Times bestselling author of the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series

“David Liss turns a new corner, and at the end of it is a splendid, unique and surprising tale of the supernatural drenched in historical atmosphere and fine characterization. You won't want to miss this one.”
—Joe R. Lansdale, author of Hap and Leonard

“David Liss masterfully blends rich historical fiction with terrifying supernatural body horror. He stands with Robert Louis Stevenson and Bram Stoker. Highly recommended.”
—Jonathan Maberry, author of V-Wars and Ink

“A real page-turner—well-written, humorous, exciting.”

“Wry, witty, twisty and tricky, The Peculiarities will slowly draw you into Liss’s strange world of magic and monsters, and compel you to pay attention no matter how you might prefer to look away. An...

Marketing Plan

Review mailings to general, literary, and horror outlets; Print/digital ARCs and press materials available; Ongoing coordinated social media campaign; Author international, national and online appearances TBD

Review mailings to general, literary, and horror outlets; Print/digital ARCs and press materials available; Ongoing coordinated social media campaign; Author international, national and online...

Available Editions

EDITION Paperback
ISBN 9781616963583
PRICE $17.95 (USD)

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Average rating from 38 members

Featured Reviews

David Liss assembles a fascinating mingling of reality and suprareality in a book that brings together history and imagination. The Peculiarities was a unique and powerful reading experience.

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The Peculiarities is a unique occult tale about a young banker who becomes embroiled in a supernatural mystery set in Victorian London. A mysterious fog, strange maladies, and deadly creatures wreak havoc in an increasingly magical oriented London in this entertaining alternative history novel.

I have never read a book quite like this before which I am very pleased about. This was a quirky and unusual story with intriguing characters suffering from an array of pecuilarities that made this book absurd, devilishly comedic, and curious. In this story the magic of Victorian London was not something hidden, but rather, out in the open and accepted. Is there more power when things are hidden in plain sight? Or do visibility and obscurity need each other more than they realize for their own survival?

The secret societies, dark magic, and deadly plots conjured an arcane story about the power of being different in a world on the cusp of a supernatural transformation.

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David Liss is a renowned author of historical fiction and recognized as a leader in the field since he first appeared on the literary scene with his first novel "A Conspiracy of Paper" He is a pioneer in his writings and a trendsetter in his stylings. His current book incorporates a background of fantasy and a logical setting in what must be calculated as an alternative world. Thomas Thresher is a young man whose family founded a bank and into which he is taken into as a clerk in order to learn the business. His older brother Walter is his mentor and in addition has Thomas living in his house in order to save money while in the Junior position learning the business.
The action begins when Thomas is called into Walter's office and told that as part of his obligations to the bank he must propose to and marry a wealthy young woman who has also been apprised that she must wed him. Thomas draws away from the command and in looking for something to do to show his place in the bank comes upon a series of loans outstanding that the customers don't show much interest in repaying nor does the bank give any indication that they are serious about collecting. The back and forth involving Thomas and his brother's demand becomes complicated as Magicians appear and creatures from other worlds arrive and look as if they are sent to do mischief. The story places them as permanent characters in a world that has experienced magic for centuries and takes it for granted. And, of course, why is the bank treating certain loans and not all in a totally none professional attitude?
Thomas has the object of not going through with a marriage he doesn't want, with the girl equally against her family pushing her into a union that is equally abhorrent for her. The pair are also thrown into attempting to thwart malevolent actions by the magic side. Thomas has found that he is starting to grow leaves undoubtedly turning into a tree in short order and the girl finding herself pregnant with Rabbits. A comical aspect yes but logically incorporated into the story. If the concept of magic openly present is accepted and is logically presented than the story is believable and taken as logical. And another enjoyable David Liss novel.

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The Peculiarities by David Liss
Thank you to Tachyon Publications and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on September 7th, 2021.

Writing: 4/5 Characters: 4/5 Plot: 5/5
In the Age of Peculiarities, women give birth to rabbits, well-dressed ghouls roam the streets of London, individuals start sprouting leaves, and terrible luck to those who break contracts — though these oddities mostly impact the very poorest, so who cares? It’s 1899 and Thomas Thresher — the younger, largely ignored, son of the Thresher banking family — turns to the occult to find out why the bank seems so very involved in the pervasive disasters. He seeks to save the bank and return it to its original charter — to serve those with nowhere else to go.

Portals to astral realms, a magical society, and Aleister Crowley himself are at the center of this wild-ride style adventure. Plenty of surprises, wry asides, and a strong sense of duty — but what I really love is that the ability to see and manipulate the patterns within mathematics is the powerful magic that is able to do what the best stylings of the Crowley gang cannot.

A real page-turner — well-written, humorous, exciting, and with a wide array of interesting, non-stereotypical, characters.

Good for fans of Alix E. Harrow and Susannah Clark.

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Great world-building, story, and characters

I loved everything about this book. The world building is excellent. The magic system makes sense and is consistent throughout the book. There is great character development with a protagonist I cared about. The story is intriguing, with some very good humor. Overall, this is a great book. Thank you to Netgalley and Tachyon Publications for the advance reader copy.

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4.5 stars

Such an imaginative, compelling take on the matter of magic! The Peculiarities shines in its storytelling, its worldbuilding, and the development of its characters.

However. Reader, beware: The first few chapters, I worried I might not like the book terribly much, if at all. The main character (Thomas) was so passive, the other characters so lightly sketched, and a few chapters in there was a disturbing scene that made me worry the book as a whole was going to be in bad taste.

But as it turns out, the beginning was calculated. As the book goes on, Thomas turns from a listless superfluous man into a perceptive and determined hero; the side characters are revealed, through Thomas’s increasing attention to them, to be complex and interesting. And the world, though cruel, is a place of hope. This is a novel which demonstrates real character growth and change over the course of the story, and not just because our protagonist is slowly turning into a tree. I loved this book, and I think those who stick past the first few chapters will as well.

Content warnings: rape, anti-Semitism

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The Pecularities was a very good read, I particularly appreciated how the historical atmosphere was done, with a lot of actual references, real characters and facts mixed with magic.
The apparition of alternative humans, the reality of the consequences of breaking oaths, all the bizarreries of a world slowly but ineluctably changing made for a very attractive read. Guessing things was also quite enjoyable, especially when one was still surprise in the end.
Incidentally (I was curious and went googling) there actually was a real story about a woman who supposedly gave birth to rabbits - even if it wasn't anything like live ones and if it's rather easy to understand how the entourage was mistaken and thought she could have been gravid with rabbits (of course, she wasn't !).
Another strong point was the strong underlining feminism, without any anachronic modernism.
And to finish, the cover is gorgeous and the reason why I first spotted the book!

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A joy, a laugh, a total pleasure. How can I express how much I enjoyed this book.! I have read several other books by Mr Liss and this is what drew me to this one. That said, while I have enjoyed all of his books I found this one completely different and refreshing. The other books were historical fiction, engaging stories created within a mostly believable historical context. The peculiarities may use historical places and people, but without any pretense of believable or indeed even of plausibility. And therein lies the joy. While I was enjoying each page of the book I couldn't help imagining that Mr Liss had enjoyed writing each page ----- and with a smile on his face the entire time. this was one of those rare books where the ending didn't matter. sure, I wanted to know how it would end, but that felt far less important than the pleasure that came from each chapter. I cannot even begin to try to summarize the plot; it would just sound too ridiculous. And indeed, that is the very point -- the whole thing was ridiculous. But who cares, the story built one ridiculous idea on top of the next --- and left me wanting for more. This book felt like the near perfect antidote for dealing with the stress and strain of the pandemic. I greatly thank Netgalley for sharing a copy and to Mr Liss for writing this unique and wonderful book.

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Upfront: I have always been a fan of David Liss' novels, even since A Conspiracy of Paper. I love the way he explores hidden history through his stories. His writing is peppered with the type of small details that bring a moment in time alive. Yet, his novels are more than simply history lessons. He tells a wonderful story with fascinating characters. I was excited to have the opportunity to read an advanced copy of his new novel, The Peculiarities, courtesy of NetGalley and Tachyon Publications in exchange for an objective review.

Set in vividly detailed Victorialn London, The Peculiarities is historical fiction with a supernatural bent, a comic picaresque romp, a love story, an extraordinary fantasy where women give birth to rabbits and men slowly turn into trees, and a riveting drama of a banking family slowly being destroyed from within. Liss' tale is filled with familiar faces, including Aleister Crowley, and Arthur Conan Doyle tangled up in complex and murderous conspiracies and secret societies. A young Thomas Thresheis is set on discovering why his family bank appears to be purposefully failing, and why his brother is dead set on Thomas marrying a woman he does not love. There is so much plot afoot, and rather than causing considerable confusion, it's great but serious fun as the stakes are high. It is a different and mesmerizing tale, drenched in both history and fantasy.

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What an absolute pleasure.

Liss’ narrative style is dazzling from the get-go, and I was swept up immediately into both the protagonist’s mind and Victorian London. Liss’ talent for transporting the reader effortlessly, and within seconds, must be commended. The eccentric plot line is often simultaneously evocative and hysterical, and I will certainly be recommending the work to anyone interested in historical, quirky, or fantastical fiction. I can’t believe I have never read anything by Liss before!

Thank you to NetGalley and Tachyon Publications for the advanced copy!

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In London in 1899, Thomas has been ripped from his carefree life and forced to work in the family bank as a cleric after his father passed away. As prominent people in London study mysticism, strange things are happening called peculiarities. Women are giving birth to litters of rabbits, the fog is acting strange, children have lobster claws for hands and Thomas has his own problem. Thomas's older brother, Walter, is forcing him to marry a woman in order to help the bank, and Thomas decides to find out what is really going on. This is a fun and different story.

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As with all his books, took me a while to lose myself in the story but once that magic happened it was an immersive magical read. Characters were fantastic and had depth and believability about them. Story was as deep and compelling as every other book I've read by Liss.

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