Children of Chicago by Cynthia Pelayo
The Town of Hamelin was suffering from a rat infestation when along came a man wearing pied (multi-coloured) clothing. He promised to rid them of the rats in exchange for payment in gold. The town eagerly agreed, and the man pulled out a musical pipe and lured all the rats away.
When he came to collect his payment, the town refused him and in revenge, he again used his pipe, but this time to lure away their children.
This fairy tale was taught to me as a caution to remind me to always keep a deal. To pay what's owed. But what if the piper isn't the victim, but the villain? What if what he always wanted was the children?
This is one of the questions Pelayo grapples with in her novel, Children of Chicago. This novel takes the tale of the pied piper and turns him into a Bloody Mary-like creature that you can summon from the mirror, only instead of killing you, he'll get rid of someone else for you. Just give him a name and they're gone. But then he comes for his payment...
Lauren Medina is a detective and is hot on the pied piper's trail in order to stop a recent killing spree before things get even more out of hand. The story is gripping, intense and delightfully scary at points. I enjoyed this aspect of the novel a lot. I listened to the audiobook and the narration was spot on for a novel of this tone and the character.
From here on out - some spoilers.
What I struggled with was Lauren herself. Lauren is not a likeable character and aspects of her don't make a lot of sense. She has reached detective at age 25 despite a vicious temper that often leads her to beat or kill suspects and being wildly unpopular at the precinct. Why she's still employed is a marvel. I know police brutality can get swept under the rug, but she's unliked by most of the other cops, including her boss. Not sure why they cover for her. The excuse of her dad being so popular is thin. Also, it's pretty clear her only goal in life is to be a cop, so her degree in English Literature makes little sense to me, especially when she marries a man who teaches it and she mocks him. Lauren is also a cruel person who uses people. People tell her this all the time, yet they can't help but fall at her feet to give her everything she wants.
The story itself is excellent - even if the "twist" is telegraphed pretty early on and is easy to guess. However, it has cast the story of the Pied Piper in a whole new light and there are many discussions throughout the novel about the importance and history of fairy tales and mythology that spoke to me.
Overall I enjoyed this dark little story and I definitely recommend the audiobook - especially since looking at other people's reviews tells me that there are a lot of typos and spelling errors.