Read Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier Online


The setting: Razorhurst, 1932. The fragile peace between two competing mob bosses—Gloriana Nelson and Mr Davidson—is crumbling. Loyalties are shifting. Betrayals threaten.Kelpie knows the dangers of the Sydney streets. Ghosts have kept her alive, steering her to food and safety, but they are also her torment.Dymphna is Gloriana Nelson’s ‘best girl’, experienced in survivinThe setting: Razorhurst, 1932. The fragile peace between two competing mob bosses—Gloriana Nelson and Mr Davidson—is crumbling. Loyalties are shifting. Betrayals threaten.Kelpie knows the dangers of the Sydney streets. Ghosts have kept her alive, steering her to food and safety, but they are also her torment.Dymphna is Gloriana Nelson’s ‘best girl’, experienced in surviving the criminal world, but she doesn’t know what this day has in store for her.When Dymphna meets Kelpie over the corpse of Jimmy Palmer, Dymphna’s latest boyfriend, she pronounces herself Kelpie’s new protector. But Dymphna’s life is in danger too, and she needs an ally. And while Jimmy’s ghost wants to help, the dead cannot protect the living . . ....

Title : Razorhurst
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781743319437
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 365 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Razorhurst Reviews

  • TheBookSmugglers
    2019-04-02 10:57

    I always find interesting to hear about the ideas behind stories. In a recent Big Idea essay, Justine Larbalestier talks about how Razorhurst starts with a place, rather than with a character’s voice like her previous novels. The story goes that, upon learning that her gentrified Sydney neighbourhood of Surry Hills was home to slums, violent gangs, brothels and shady business ran by crime ladies back in the 20s and 30s, she was moved to learn more about its past and that road led down to Razorhurst.Kelpie grew up in the streets of Sydney, a malnourished urchin that never knew her parents, doesn’t know her own age and can barely read. Kelpie has seen ghosts all her life and was effectively brought up by some of the friendly ones. The not so friendly ones have been a source of torment she can’t block out.Dymphna is a charming, beautiful dame, the most famous prostitute of these parts. She too can see ghosts but unlike Kelpie she has learned to cope with their existence by all but ignoring them. Caught between two competing mob bosses – Gloriana Nelson and Mr Davidson – Dymphna is the former’s “Best Girl” and the latter’s obsession. Her ambition is to become a boss herself and to run Surry Hills but things don’t work according to plan.Razorhurst is a snapshot of this particular neighbourhood in the 30s and it follows Dymphna and Kelpie as they cross paths for the first time over the murdered corpse of Dymphna’s lover Jimmy and then must run for their lives. Taking place within the hectic, violent and engrossing hours following that encounter, the novel also offers a vibrant – albeit brutal – account of their lives leading to that point as well as of the lives of many of Surry Hill’s inhabitants with short interludes inbetween chapters. Also, ghosts.It makes perfect sense actually, the addition of ghosts here, given the nature of this story as it is so very easy to imagine not only this place but also these girls to be haunted. And haunted they are: both Kelpie and Dymphna can see and talk to ghosts, an ability they share, a secret they both carry. This shared curse is perhaps the only thing they have in common beyond the way that Razorhurst has affected their lives because everything else sets them apart: from their own bodies to their demeanour, from their past to their possible future.This is probably my favourite thing about Razorhurst: these two girls and the way they come together. The most affecting and heart-breaking element of their portrayal is the question of age: both barely in their teens and yet circumstances – tragedy and poverty – have dictated their actions and as such Kelpie is almost a child whereas Dymphna is treated as an adult.Dymphna and Kelpie’s lives are as tragic as they come but in no way less than fully rich and engaging. The most heart-wrenching thing of all: Dymphna is adamant to become Kelpie’s protector when she herself needed to rely on others for her own protection in a world that thinks less of women even when they are powerful and famous. This novel – among other things – offers an incredible portrayal of this world and its precarious balance between feminism and misogyny, offering a skilful take on female empowerment and agency with a great pair of main female characters.Razorhurst is another excellent book from a favourite author and a Notable Book of 2015.

  • Susana
    2019-04-17 13:56

    Arc provided by Soho Teen through Edelweiss Release Date: March 3rdAn atmospheric tale set in Sydney during the thirties. A period fertile in gang wars, and consequent fights for power.Confession time: This rating is more representative of the book merits, than my actual appreciation of it.There's nothing wrong with it: It has a crisp writing, believable characters _ well, at least the ones that are alive _ a good portrait of a time and period. It taught me things I had never heard about.But I have to admit that it was not my cup of tea...For starters, the paranormal element in this story left me baffled as to its existence.Also I didn't understand why Dymphna would be so interested in Kelpie all of a sudden.Or the sudden romantic interest of Dymphna in _________.Then there were one too many points of views, which had the undesired effect of making me feel as if I was reading a collection of short stories. Characters would appear, and relationships would develop themselves out of thin air. For me that was the story's weakest point. So, yes, I admit that I had to force myself to keep reading this. Even when the writing was that good.Also I don't understand why this was labelled as YA. For me this basically historical fiction with a dash of paranormal in it.But I believe it would be unfair to give this story only two stars, when it has so many positive points.Would I recommend it?Sure, if that time period interests you..if not, it may get tricky.

  • Kelly
    2019-04-13 10:39

    This high-stakes, fast-paced historical fantasy set in 1932 Sydney is a bloody and wild ride. Told through the voices of Kelpie and Dymphna, it's a story of survival in a mob-run land, where there's a power battle between two leaders seeking for total control of Razorhurst. But more than being that, this is also a story about social class, about status, about allegiances, dependence, reliability, and more.And if that weren't enough, this book features ghosts. Maybe "features" is the wrong word. This book has ghosts and those ghosts infiltrate the narrative in a way that we not only see them, but we understand what it feels like to be Kelpie, who can't stop hearing them all around her. We have to instead try to follow Dymphna's lead on how she handles those ghosts.Woven between those two narrators is backstory into the lives of both girls. At times, the middle of this story sagged, despite the fact it was fast-paced and the entire story takes place in a mere 24 hours. But for readers willing to push through those chapters, the pay off and reward in the end is excellent. This should appeal to fans of Libba Bray's THE DIVINERS. It's definitely Aussie-flavored, and while read it, I couldn't help do my own research into this period of time in Sydney's history. It's fascinating.

  • Ely
    2019-04-26 07:57

    Originally posted at received this book from the publishers for review in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts in the review below are mine.I think I should begin this review by mentioning how excited I was for the release of Razorhurst. I happened to find it randomly on Goodreads one day and I cannot even begin to explain my feelings. I think I even fangirled to my mum about it and said something like ‘it’s a 1930’s, Underbelly-ish, ghost story for YA’. She told me to calm down. As you can probably guess, that didn’t work so well.I love absolutely anything and everything that is set between 1914 and 1945. That being said, I don’t often read things set in the 1930’s at least not anything that hasn’t just been the lead up to WWII. However, the late 1920 and 1930’s are my favourite times in Australian history. I find Australian history, in general, rather boring but that period is amazing. Razorhurst is a fictional version of that time period, of course, but it’s based on some real events- mainly the Razor gangs of Tilly Devine and Kate Leigh. If you’re interested in this sort of thing, I suggested to check out Underbelly Razor before you read Razorhurst, it just gives you a real good understanding of the time if you’re not familiar. (Plus, look at those costumes!)Okay, onto the actual book now! Razorhurst is set in Surry Hills, a suburb of Sydney, and focuses on two characters- Kelpie and Dymphna. It is a multiple POV book which is often a bit off-putting for me, but the girls have such different voices that it made it easy to tell between the two of them. Kelpie lives on the street, she’s got no family, no money, nothing but she can see and speak to ghosts. Dymphna is the opposite, she’s the ‘best girl’ for one of leading crime bosses, she’s got money and she’s strong and independent but she’s called the ‘Angel of Death’. Dymphna decides to take Kelpie under her wing and that’s where the real action begins. The narrative swaps between the two girls, but it also flickers into both Kelpie and Dymphna’s pasts as well as a few others. These snippets of the past are like little story in between the actual chapters, there are ones telling where Kelpie grew up and all the different ghosts she saw. They were incredibly interesting to read and they always connected in some way to the actual story. I don’t remember ever reading a book that does this, but I really, really liked it.The characters are amazing, I love both Kelpie and Dymphna but the smaller characters are also wonderfully written. The writing itself is wonderful too. Not only is it enjoyable to read, there are certain slang words that have been used from the 30’s to give it more of that realistic feeling and other parts of the language are very typically Australian, which was very interesting to read. The story itself is pretty fast-paced, the action starts almost right away and it doesn’t really stop until the end of the book. Therefore, it was a pretty quick read but it also had me on the edge of my seat guessing what was going to happen next. The entire book takes place in the one day, so you can probably imagine how fast-paced it is for yourselves!Finally, I want to mention two last things about the book…kind of. Firstly, it’s a beautiful book. The cover is magnificent and very period appropriate which makes me incredibly happy. Also, at the start of every chapter the first few words are typed in this art deco font which really adds to the 30’s feel of the book. What can I say? I love it when publishers and designers put a lot of work into their books, and I think Allen and Unwin is one of the best at this. Lastly, I want to mention the acknowledgments at the end of the book because Justine Larbalestier mentions some of her influences of the book. The two main ones are The Harp in the South by Ruth Park and Foveaux by Kylie Tennant, not only does it make me want to read these books but you can see through all the different books she mentions that Justine Larbalestier put a hell of a lot of work into researching for Razorhurst and I think that really shines through in the novel. Of course, that makes me very happy.So as you’ve probably guessed from this ridiculously long review, I really, really love Razorhurst. It’s definitely become one of my new favourites which means I probably won’t shut up about it for at least of a couple of years. I apologise to you all in advance!

  • RavenclawReadingRoom
    2019-04-16 08:42

    3.5 stars. Okay, let's start with the classification. I'm not sure I can call this a YA book in good conscience, even though I've shelved it as such. My usual rule of "What's the protagonist's age?" would class it as YA, but the fact that one of our two main characters is sixteen and also the classiest prostitute in Sydney complicates things somewhat... ANYWAY. Razorhurst is set in 1930s Sydney. In case you're unaware of the history, handguns were banned in Australia at the time because of a rise in communism following the Russian revolution. Don't even ask me to try and explain it because it makes very little sense now. All I can say is that the UK and Canada did the same. Whatever, handguns were banned, so criminals ran around with straight razors. Hence, Razorhurst. Background aside, Razorhurst is the story of two girls from vastly different worlds. They can both see ghosts and they both find themselves caught up in something that threatens their lives and the lives of those around them. The action takes place over the course of OMG THE LONGEST DAY EVER but there are shorter flashback chapters in between to events from the lives of various characters that brought them to where they are now. So despite the story taking place in a single day, we still get a great sense of who the characters are without it feeling info-dump-tastic. Speaking of the characters, they're pretty fabulous. The I-see-dead-people-and-they're-talking-to-me side of things was a fun twist on your standard historical fiction, and the language used was well researched and felt authentic. Basically, I loved everything about this book except the ending. I was at 93% of the book and there still hadn't been any kind of conclusion to things, so believe me when I say that the ending felt rushed to me, and I was pretty underwhelmed by it. BUT. The story itself was fabulous and I'd still recommend it, because maybe people who aren't me would feel differently about the ending. In short? It's Underbelly with ghosts. Uh, YES.

  • Cait (Paper Fury)
    2019-04-06 10:35

    Razorhurst was a totally new reading experience for me. 1930s in Sydney? Ghosts? Gang wars? People slicing each other up with razors (because guns are illegal and Aussies are very thrifty)? Colour me intrigued.I had a great time reading it! There's a few things I'm twitchy about, but let's talk about the awesome first, yes? It actually features two strong female characters!Huzzah! I love books about girls with strong friendships, and Dymphna and Kelpie are awesome. They're total opposites. Kelpie is a malnourished little wisp, and Dymphna is a neck-deep in gang wars. They meet over a murdered body. That's always BFF material, don't you think? Also: Ghosts. Ghosts everywhere.The ghosts were frustrated and sneakily hilarious. My only issue was that there was so many ghosts, it took me a while to figure out who was alive and who wasn't. Awkward for me. But Kelpie was practically raise by ghosts (isn't that awesome?!) and she hears and talks to them. Of all the ghosts books I've read, this is the most original and interesting.So what are my quibbles? I'm only twitchy about how impersonal the story felt. It's written in 3rd person, and usually I love that, but this time I felt like I was beingtold a story instead of being in the story. The narration was almost omnipresent. I never got lost inside Razorhurst. Which is probably a good thing, because being sucked into there? I probably would've died. Dead people, dead people everywhere. It's probably not 100% my style of book, but it was interesting. Razorhurst is bloody, gory, and unique.

  • Alex Ristea
    2019-04-03 09:46

    There's a bit of a story attached to this review.On my last night in Melbourne, I heard about Justine Larbalestier's book launch and decided to stop in, keen to explore yet another little neighbourhood before packing off to Sydney.I am so glad I did.Razorhurst is set in Sydney during the '20s and '30s when organized crime was rampant. These were the days where firearms were outlawed, so people started carrying straight-edge razors instead. If confronted by the police, it was easy to excuse them as shaving instruments.If you look at mugshots from the time (and I did; more on that later), you will see people with grotesque L- or X-shaped scars on their cheeks. Once a sign of shame, they soon wore them as a badge of honour. "If I have this scar, and I'm still alive, you can imagine what happened to the other guy."In short, I became completely engrossed with the history of this time. Sly-grog shops, prostitution, gangs, riots, and best of all: the two most feared and respected leaders during this period were both formidable women. I finished the book on my flight to Sydney, eager to explore the neighbourhoods where it was set.It became such a deeper experience to see places that weren't in the guidebook and to get a feel for a part of Sydney that I would have missed as just a regular tourist.My days were spent wandering the now-gentrified streets of Surrey Hills (nicknamed "Sorrow Hills") and Darlinghurst (from which we get "Razorhurst"). I even made it down to the former slums of Frog Hollow, where the temperature drops significantly, and if you close your eyes, you can almost feel the ghostly remains of the former inhabitants.Imagine my shock when I'm getting purposely lost in Sydney and I turn a corner to find this staring back at me:It was the same photo that Justine had pulled out in the reading and an image that has been with me ever since.Turns out, it was a poster for the police history museum, which happened to have an exhibit on Sydney's criminal past. Exactly about the time in which this book was set. Excited, I spent another day in there, poring over thousands of high-quality, first-hand images and accounts from the time.Now, I guess I should talk about the novel itself.You can tell the research has been done. (Not in the least because later I saw some of the source material). But the thing is, the world-building doesn't beat you over the head like so many Fantasy novels I'm used to. The author had so much to draw on, but showed enviable restraint in letting the setting weave its way subtly into the story.The language and general writing quality are there—it's as ephemeral as the ghosts in the story themselves.I loved the little page-long interludes which are short enough to give you a deep character insight but never overstay their welcome.Razorhurst is a touching look into a hard, hard world, filled with broken, sympathetic characters. Don't think dark like some of the recent Fantasy we've seen, but more along the lines of a grungy, dirty depression-era vibe.Overall, a lot of pieces came together to make this novel work for me. It was a delightful read, and absolutely made my Sydney experience a once-in-a-lifetime set of coincidences which I'll never forget.

  • Shelleyrae at Book'd Out
    2019-04-10 11:38

    Justine Larbalaestier's Razorhurst is gritty, intriguing novel blending history and the paranormal to create an interesting and exciting story with crossover appeal for both young adult and adult audiences.It's 1932 and the tentative truce between Sydney's rival underworld gangs, headed by Gloriana Nelson and Mr Davidson, is on the verge of collapse when Gloriana's right hand man, Jimmy Palmer is murdered in his bed. For Dymphna, Gloria's 'best girl' and Jimmy's girlfriend, Jimmy's death is a problem. Was he murdered by Mr Davidson in a calculated move against Glory, or was he killed because Glory learned of his and Dymphna's plans to oust her?Climbing into the Surrey Hills dosshouse housing Gloriana's men in search of food, street urchin Kelpie is shocked to find Dymphna standing over the body of her murdered lover.Both are forced to flee as the police close in, with Dymphna insisting Kelpie remains with her for protection, but safety is hard to come by on the streets of 'Razorhurst'.Razorhurst is told from the alternating perspectives of Kelpie and Dymphna, interspersed with brief omniscient vignettes. Both girls are feisty, brave, and smart, but most importantly they are survivors.Kelpie is an appealing character. When her mother died in childbirth, she was taken in by 'Old Ma' who raised her as best she could. Upon Old Ma's death, desperate to escape the Welfare, Kelpie took to the streets, surviving with the occasional kindness of local hard man, Snowy, and the ghosts that she can both see and hear that haunt the streets.Dymphna was born to privilege but tragedy left her orphaned twice and she was forced to find a way to survive. As Glory's 'best girl', she has earned status among the underworld, but she wants more. She too can see and hear ghosts but hiding her ability has become second nature.Larbalaestier's gangland characters are inspired by infamous Sydney identities (most notably Tilly Divine and Kate Leigh), and the author's research into the 'razor' gangs of Sydney, so named because straight edge razors were the weapon of choice during the 1930's.I loved the historical elements that evoke inner city Sydney during the period. Grounded firmly in fact, the setting is fascinating and vividly drawn, from the slum of Frog Hollow to the seedy streets of Surry 'Sorrow' Hills lined with bordello's, opium dens and gambling houses. Unfolding over the course of a single day the pacing of the novel is well managed, the action is non stop as Dymphna and Kelpie scramble to survive. There are explicit, though not gratuitous, references to violence and the occasional use of language. A touch of humour and romance tempers the ever present sense of menace and danger.Entertaining, thrilling and original, Razorhurst is a great read I'd widely recommend and I'm really hoping Larbalestier has plans for a sequel.

  • Tehani
    2019-04-20 15:54

    There is a lot to enjoy about this book, and I particularly like the ghosts, but I felt a little let down overall. For me, the pacing was a bit off, and some of the characterisation wasn't completely consistent in my eyes. In the end though, I simply wondered what the purpose of the story was. Not every novel needs to end happily, not every novel needs to end with a bang, but for me, this one kind of went out with a whimper, and I was a little disappointed in the payoff. I also had a bit of a problem with the emphasis on Kelpie's age (and her lack of knowledge of it for much of the book), especially as the first two instances it's mentioned are at odds with each other, which knocked me out of the reading experience (yes, it's supposed to be a contested issue, but the first time it's mentioned is very difficult to reconcile with the second - doesn't make sense!).That said, I still gave it four stars, because it is still a highly readable, engaging book. Yes, I can be disappointed on one level and still enjoy the story on another. Kelpie was a really interesting point-of-view character, and her unfolding story drew me in. Probably my favourite character was Jimmy, and I was fascinated by his emerging story as well. In all, I'd be reluctant to classify it as a YA book, which we're used to seeing from Larbalestier, but it's an interesting insight into the Australian urban issues of the period.

  • Khee
    2019-04-06 08:51

    Not sure how to review this, in fact have avoided doing so for over a week. It's not that I didn't enjoy the book, but the style evoked such strong echoes of both Kylie Tennant & Ruth Park (credited by the author) as to feel derivative. But the story has stayed with me, even though I didn't enjoy all the chopping back and forth and repetition of events thru different character's 'eyes'. Can't help feeling it lacks something, in the end.

  • Joy
    2019-04-08 09:37

    This and similar reviews can be found at Thoughts By J!- - - Razorhurst is a historical crime novel written for the YA crowd. Set in 1932 Sydney, it follows two protagonists who have the ability to see ghosts. Kelpie is a young street urchin who was enticed to enter a house in Surry Hills by a ghost, who had promised she would find apples to eat. What she found was lots and lots of red ... but no apples. Kelpie instead stumbles upon Gloriana 'Glory' Nelson's number one razorman with his throat slashed and blood splattered all over the walls. And standing beside him in shock was the infamous Dymphna Campbell, Glory's "best girl".Dymphna is the other protagonist in the novel, and knows of Kelpie's ability to talk to spirits as she shares the same curse. Known as the "Angel of Death", every one of Dymphna's men ends up dead within a few months or less - and the same goes for Jimmy Palmer, her most recent squeeze. At the opening of the novel, Dymphna clutches a card from Glory's rival, Mr Davidson, suggesting Jimmy Palmer was assassinated. She begins to fear for her life as Jimmy and her were planning to take over Razorhurst, and killing Mr Davidson themselves. As the coppers approach and not knowing what to do, Dymphna makes the split decision to run, taking Kelpie with her.It's hard to believe that all 363 pages of this novel revolves around that one singular day, a day that Dymphna deems as one of the worst days of her life. While it wasn't surprising that her boyfriends all ended up dead, it was different this time because she and Jimmy had expected to succeed in their takeover. With him dead, she had no way to know whether Glory and Mr Davidson knew of their scheming. The whole situation is made worse as Jimmy comes back as a ghost and decides to haunt Dymphna.Razorhurst is a very fascinating story based on real life events in the 1930s. Situated in Surry Hills - or Sorrow Hills - the way Larbalestier describes everything from that period shows the extent of research she did when writing this book. You truly feel immersed in the environment. At the end of each chapter is also a short snippet of some historical background information on the characters and settings mentioned in the novel. At first, I found it distracting as I wanted to get straight back to the story, but as the novel progressed, this snippets were extremely helpful in painting a stronger image and personality of all the characters.I loved reading from both Kelpie and Dymphna's perspectives, and thought they each had very strong and distinctive voices. Kelpie, having lived on the streets since her foster mum passed, acted like a child although she was the same age as Dymphna. Dymphna on the other hand behaved much older due to the profession she was in. To put it bluntly, she was Glory Nelson's best whore.The main link between the two girls was their ability to see ghosts. Dymphna had always been meaning to speak to Kelpie before the death of Jimmy, and wanted to teach her how to ignore all the spirits and thus prevent herself from going insane. Ironically, she never managed to talk to Kelpie until they were suddenly thrown together that day.What I enjoyed most about Dymphna's character was her smart mind. She self-taught herself how to ignore the ghosts surrounding her, even though their touch sends her stomach reeling. She's also able to connect many of the dots, and makes logical decisions at every turn. Even when there is no positive outcome, Dymphna chooses the path that would less likely get her and Kelpie killed.Kelpie is also a very loveable character. While not as smart as Dymphna, she's a survivor just for having stayed alive by herself for so long. She often spends years at a time avoiding human contact, speaking only to ghosts who sometimes lead her to food and shelter. Kelpie is smart in her own way - she knows that she should avoid conflict, knows that she shouldn't trust people easily, and to never tell others about the ghosts. The fact that she's avoided child welfare for so long is just a testimony to her common sense as well.Razorhurst is definitely similar to a YA version of Underbelly. It's filled with intrigue, crime and gangs of razor-wielding men. I went into the book with no expectations, and left feeling extremely satisfied. While I had hoped there would be more bloody action and gore, I was still happy with the way the story went. The only flaw I would pick on is the timeline. There was SO much packed into this one day, it was sometimes a little hard to believe. There just seemed to be endless hours. I understand the urgency would probably be affected if the story occurred over a few days, so it's not a flaw that affected any part of the story. Just my own personal nit-pick.Overall, Razorhurst was an amazing read. If you're looking for a YA inspired Underbelly read situated in 1930s Sydney, then this is definitely the book for you. Even if you're not into these types of stories, do give it a go. I was never a fan either, but Razorhurst has me yearning for more!Thank you to Allen & Unwin Australia for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  • Calzean
    2019-04-11 08:49

    Hard to see this as a YA novel. The writing suits the genre but a theme of underage prostitution, backyard abortions and some murderers could be classed as good need some maturity but maybe I am showing my age.There is a lot to like. Sydney 1932 and all of its evils covering gang wars, prostitution, drugs, corruption and the lack of sanitation and running water for the poor. Life during the depression, difficulties faced by returned (and damaged) soldiers and the lack of social services are also covered.The book also has two strong female leads who can both see ghosts, violence in the streets, bad guys, good bad guys, tragedy and a happy ending. Overall, it was a well told entertaining tale.

  • Tsana Dolichva
    2019-04-23 15:53

    Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier is a YA historical fantasy set in Sydney in the 1930s. I have to admit, I didn't know very much about Sydney in the 1930s until I read this book but it certainly seems like it was an interesting period.Razorhurst follows two main characters, both of whom can see ghosts: Kelpie, a street urchin and Dymphna, the most expensive prostitute in the city. Kelpie has survived on the streets in large part thanks to some ghost who have taken her under their wings, helped her find food and taught her general survival skills. Dymphna has survived mostly by being good at what she does and having the right appearance and upbringing to impress higher society types.One of the things I found really interesting was the way the story was told. Alternating chapters were from Kelpie and Dymphna's points of view and in between chapters there were short, semi-omniscient mini-chapters (I'd call them sections but they did have headings, if not numbers) telling the story of someone's past, usually. If not a flashback to one of the main characters' pasts, then the back story of one of the secondary or incidental characters. As a story-telling method it worked really well. The reader gained information that neither Kelpie nor Dymphna knew, which fleshed out the plot and, in some cases, cast other events in a new light. Or gave us back story for the main characters which it didn't make sense to insert into the main narrative. In this way, Razorhurst is as much about the region of Surrey Hills more generally as it is about Kelpie and Dymphna specifically. I found it a really effective way to set the historical scene.I enjoyed Razorhurst a lot. Larbalestier has a way of revealing information gradually that worked really well for me. There were some things we didn't learn about Kelpie until much later, which other authors may have foregrounded much sooner. I'd be more specific, but I don't want to ruin the reading experience for others. In part, though, I think this is also a reflection of how Kelpie hasn't had much opportunity — until the start of the story — to put her own life into context with those around her who aren't also living in the streets. For example, she doesn't even know how old she is at the start of the story and doesn't understand why people keep asking her that anyway. Dymphna, on the other hand, has always been very aware of her place in life and society and how to play the roles she needs to to survive. More acutely horrible things have happened to Dymphna, but she's also had more opportunities and knows how to make use of them. Kelpie, on the other hand, has mostly only had to worry about finding (barely) enough food and somewhere warm to sleep.The ghosts are an important element in the story but not actually the driver of the plot in anyway. They're just another form of character and, at times, a challenge for Dymphna and Kelpie to overcome. The main plot is of the "who will try to kill us next and where can we be safe" variety, and the whole novel spans approximately twenty-four hours.I highly recommend Razorhurst to pretty much everyone. Well, not younger-than-YA readers, since there's several short bursts of acute violence — the story does revolve around razor gangs, after all — but anyone interested in historical fiction as well as the more speculative element. I think the story will work for both types of readers, and for readers who don't usually read YA.5 / 5 starsYou can read more of my reviews on my blog.

  • Melliane
    2019-04-03 11:35

    Mon avis en FrançaisMy English reviewI’m always drawn to novels featuring ghosts and this one was no exception. It must be said that the cover was fun and I was curious to see how the story would be.First of all I must say that I was surprised to see the format that the author has chosen to present with this volume. Indeed in the story we follow Dymphna Campbell and Kelpie two young different women but who find themselves together with their ability to see ghosts. Each chapter is from the point of view of one of the two and the events progress like that. But in addition to this, between each two chapters we also have something very different, some ideas of the other characters, the Kelpie’s past; parts which were ultimately not a progress on the story, but that gives us a better idea on the characters. I confess that I had a little trouble to be really interested in these chapters, in what was happening, I wanted to go back to the events. I’m not saying it was not interesting but it is true that I was a little disturbed in my reading pace. After, as I said it’s not a bad thing because the story is very well done and interesting.The world in which we find ourselves is led by two major Mafia members, a woman, Glory and a man, M. Davidson, two enemies who live together in a kind of uneasy peace. Yet all this will change with Dymphna, a young beautiful girl working for the woman but that Mr. Davidson is determined to recover. In addition to this, as always, the last Dymphna’s boyfriend is found shot/dead … why is that? That’s the big question, but they all end up in the same condition. While she is in a difficult situation, the girl meets with Kelpie, a person she is determined to help! Yes, because unlike her, Kelpie can not separate her world and the spirit’s and she is assaulted by all that is happening. But while the two team up together, they learn to understand, to trust and to need the one and the other, they will also have to help each other to survive whatever happen. In this way, we also have two very different boys but who have a little place in our heart, two people who will help the girls for their own reasons.I was really curious to see how our two heroines would handle everything, how they would be able to survive what was happening and I admit that the author has really created a very interesting story for it. I will not go into details but it’s fascinating to see the life they follow, and finally even if they have the same age, they are completely different. One seems more adult, more responsible, while the other seems to be a little girl, not really knowing what it means to live.It was a very interesting and different novel, and I took great pleasure in following the story. I wonder if there will be a sequel later or if it is the only novel but in any case I’m curious.

  • Shaheen
    2019-04-18 11:59

    4.5/5O0o0o0o this was awesome.1932 in Australia was a dramatic time. The Harbour Bridge was officially opened, the Great Depression had destroyed lives across the country, and unemployment had reached a peak of 30%. Razors had replaced guns as weapons for gangsters and Sydney was ruled by razor-gangs.It’s against this colourful and dangerous backdrop that we meet Kelpie, a homeless orphan girl looking for apples. She finds Dymphna, Gloriana ‘Glory’ Nelson’s ‘best girl’, next to the body of her most recent boyfriend. Hunted by both of the Sydney mob-bosses, Glory and Mr. Davidson, the two of them try to reach the dubious safety of Dymphna’s benefactors.Kelpie is small, malnourished, and she can see and talk to ghosts. She has been surviving on the streets of Surrey Hills with the help of some unlikely folk, including hit-men and the ghosts that haunt the area. Kelpie is smart, determined, and extraordinarily brave. Dymphna shares many of the same qualities, but their backgrounds couldn’t be more different. Dymphna is practical and clever, having survived so long in her world of crime, sex and murder. I liked how resourceful she was and how she genuinely cared for Kelpie.The plot of Razorhurst surprised me since the takes place over one day. One very long, very eventful day. So much happens throughout the novel that sometimes it’s jarring when someone goes ‘oh it’s only noon’, but it works in this case. The characters never seemed to be in a hurry to do anything, even when they were saying they were in a hurry. I think the style of storytelling style adopted in this narrative takes away from the urgency the characters must have felt.A story that begins with a body covered in blood and ends with another body covered in blood, Razorhurst brings this volatile and perilous time in Sydney’s history to life well. The author has obviously done her research, and the book makes subtle but accurate references to the political and social climate of the times. In many ways, this book could have worked well as a crime-drama without the touch of supernatural, but I enjoyed the creepy vibe the ghosts brought to the atmosphere.This is the first novel by Justine Larbalestier that I have read, and I am sad that I haven’t picked up any of her earlier books. Razorhurst is a brilliantly crafted story that will keep you flipping pages until the wee hours of the morning, despite being slightly lighter in speculative fiction elements than what I usually read.A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review.You can read more of my reviews at Speculating on SpecFic.

  • Alex (TheLibraryOfAlex)
    2019-04-18 09:51

    This book was actually really surprising. I didn't know much about the time, I didn't know much about the story, but I feel like that's a good way to go into it. Razor Hurst is a very interesting book and a very thrilling book. It is set in 1932 Sydney, during the Razor Gang Wars. I felt that the author did a fantastic job at creating the setting. It definitely had the 1930s Sydney vibe, in both the social dialogue between characters and the actions of characters. This book is a dual POV book and I absolutely love the layout of the book, with about 2 chapters for each POV and at the end of a chapter we'd get a little bit of exposition or a bit of extra information that related to chapter. I would have to say my favourite Character would be Gloriana Nelson, and I loved the suspense created in the first part of the book, where all the characters are talking about her, but she is never seen herself until well after page 100. Some problems I had included the pacing of the book. I personally felt that it was too slow for my liking. I also didn't really like how the ghost thing is never properly addressed at the end of the novel, but I guess that could be because the characters themselves don't know and never find out.I defiantly saw similarities between Gloriana Nelson and Tilly Devine (an actual mob boss during the razor wars), and I quite liked that aspect. Overall, it was a enjoyable book that I just wished could have been paced a bit faster.

  • Tate
    2019-03-30 09:04

    At first, I had a hard time getting into this book and I'm not sure why. I ended up reading the whole thing. In fact, I finished last night and had dreams about the characters all night long. So, I guess it's safe to say that this is the kind of book that gets under your skin. I do wonder why Larbalestier bothered adding a spec fic element, though. The ghosts are very present, persistent, even, but they could have been removed from the story and the plot could have stayed mostly the same. That being said, I probably wouldn't have liked many of the characters nearly so much if they didn't have this special ability to see and communicate with ghosts. It's not a strong recommend, but I certainly found it a pleasant read.

  • Ben Babcock
    2019-04-10 11:53

    I love that truth—in this case, history—is often stranger than fiction. Take Razorhurst. The year 1932, and in a run down section of Sydney, Australia, gangs of men rove the streets, scarring each other with razor blades.Cool alternate history, right? Wrong. That’s true facts. Justine Larbalestier might have created some composite characters based on real people from that era, but the setting is real. These razor gangs of Surry Hills were real. That’s pretty cool. I knew my Aussie friends were dangerous, but I’m going to be extra careful around the ones from Sydney….The most fictional (most fictional—is that a thing?) component of Razorhurst would be the ghosts that our two protagonists, Kelpie and Dymphna, can see. Sometimes they talk, sometimes they don’t, but always they lurk, a presence unfelt and unremarked upon by anyone other than these two—who are, you know, rather busy running for their lives. The ghosts don’t quite play as active a role as one might expect. Rather, they are mostly commentary on the unsavoury nature of life in Surry Hills under the rule of Gloriana Nelson and Mr Davidson.The short span of time covered in this book impressed me while reading. Flashbacks aside, all of Razorhurst happens in a day and a night—and what an eventful night! As Kelpie and Dymphna travel across Surry Hills, through other parts of Sydney, and back, we learn more about what life has been like for them.Dymphna isn’t originally from Sydney, but having made her way here (Edit: Apparently I misread that part, Dymphna is from Sydney.) She has fallen into a life of a working girl. Larbalestier’s careful depiction illustrates how sex work has the potential both to be a positive force for women as well as a dangerous one. Thanks to her self-possession and shrewdness, Dymphna is Gloriana’s “best girl” and has a modicum of independence and savings. Unlike the other girls, she has her own place, and she has a little more leeway in her interactions with the haughty and capricious Glory. However, there is no doubt that her position is precarious. Someday someone older and more attractive, more popular, is going to come along—or, as we see happen here, someone is going to start a gang war. Oh, and Dymphna’s really young—same age as Kelpie, who is older than she looks.This parallel between the two protagonists is cool. Dymphna and Kelpie are the same age, but they are so different. The former seems very adult. She works, she lives—she loves. Kelpie, on the other hand, is more child than adult, more girl than woman, both physically and emotionally. Since the death and fading of her adoptive mother, Kelpie has gone from ghost to ghost to find companionship. She grew up on the streets of Sydney, never knowing her true parents.In some ways Kelpie is more independent than Dymphna. Ghost assistance (and Snowy) aside, Kelpie has grown up and survived on her own for years. She learned how to read (thanks, Mrs. Lee!) and is rather well-read for a street urchin. In fact, her deer-in-the-headlights reaction to Dymphna dragging her through Sydney on this day seems quixotic at first. Then she sucker punches another girl and steals a wicked knife, and I’m all, “That’s the Kelpie from chapter 1!”So throughout their adventure, it’s these parallels between Kelpie and Dymphna that make Razorhurst so enthralling. Larbalestier captures the sentiment that this time and this place, like many others in history, doesn’t really care about these individuals. Kelpie frequently refers to the spectre of Welfare—the noun and capital letter serving as metonymy for an insufficient bureaucracy pretending to care about the people in its charge. Even the ghosts, in their own way, testify to this lack of interest on the universe’s part: coming back is cold comfort, either to the deceased or the person or place they haunt.Watching Dymphna and Kelpie nervously get to know each other from necessity, and then start to bond, is the best part. It makes the ending worthwhile. I’m pleased that Razorhurst is standalone (or at least, it can be standalone—I’m sure Larbalestier could write a sequel if she chooses). Larbalestier could have drawn the events in this book out into a trilogy. Instead, after this one, eventful day and night in Surry Hills, the book concludes on a bittersweet note of dreadful optimism.I mourn the one we lost, cut down in his prime.I’m happy that Kelpie and Dymphna receive some closure, in more ways than one.Razorhurst is both fun and terrifying. Its use of a unique and fascinating period in Sydney’s history provides plenty of interesting opportunities for the narrative and the characters. The protagonists are two well-realized young women fighting literally for survival in an uncaring war of territory, power, and influence. Larbalestier crafts a sequence of events exciting and exhilarating because they are so clearly the result of dominoes falling and plans spinning ever faster out of control. It’s invigorating.

  • Pamela
    2019-04-23 13:38

    In spite of the "g'day mate!" stereotype, I've never really connected with books by Australian authors. I think Australia is awesome! However, it's strange that almost every author I try feels somehow ... distant from me. I've never really connected with the storyline or the characters. They are removed from me in way that I don't understand. It's as if I'm watching the book unfold, but I can never get close enough to immerse myself in it, to really understand it. Razorhurst is, so far, the least standoffish Aussie novel (let's just put Matt Reilly and his exponentially crazy use of italics in his sci-fi/thriller novels to the side, because Matt Reilly is his own thing) I've read.Before reading Razorhurst, I knew of Justine Larbalestier, but I'd never read any of her books. I remember the big kerfuffle over the cover of Liar, which is about a person of color and the publisher originally put a white girl on the cover instead. I also recently found out that Justine Larbalestier and Scott Westerfeld are married, which to me was a mind=blown moment. I mean, obviously authors can marry whomever they want, but I find it so cool when they marry other authors. Their homes must be vortices of words and imagination.Plus, the cover for Razorhurst is just phenomenal. I had to request it.So, this is a historical novel with a paranormal twist. Kelpie is a street kid in Razorhurst, an orphan raised by ghosts. Yep, you heard correctly: ghosts. Most people can't see ghosts--Kelpie is one of the very few. She might only be the only one. Some ghosts haunt specific places, and others, certain people, and others drift about. No one--not even the ghosts--knows the "rules" of ghosting, only that it happens to some people and not to others. However, this isn't really a ghost story--the ghosts are a fun way for Larbalestier to add in flavor and backstory without total infodumping. Plus, they're sassy, tormented, confused and very human for being very dead.Larbalestier excels at creating dimensional, flawed, and powerful female characters. Kelpie's bound and determined never to fall into the hands of social services. Heaven knows when she bathed last, and she gets herself mixed up in some serious mobster business because she was starving. With the temptation of an apple, Kelpie sneaks into a boarding house and finds Dymphna Campbell, Razorhurst's most beautiful and most notorious "girl," standing over the body of her latest boyfriend, Jimmy Palmer. Oh, and Jimmy's standing there too ... as a ghost. Neither Dymphna nor Kelpie had anything to do with the razorman's gory demise, but it definitely puts a hole in Dymphna's plan to run Razorhurst in place of the two rival upstanding citizens: Glory Nelson, Madam, and Mr. Davidson, Viper. The one good thing (for Dymphna, anyway) that comes out of Jimmy's death is that she's finally thrown together with Kelpie. Dymph has had her eye on Kelpie for a long time--ever since she figured out that Kelpie sees ghosts too (yep, Dymph can see them). The rest ... well, it isn't so good. The two girls are on the lam from Mr. Davidson, the coppers, possibly Glory Nelson, and various henchmen. Larbalestier manages to cram murder, kidnapping, narrow escapes, tram rides, shootings, knifings, parties, and even a decent bath for Kelpie into a twenty-four hour period. Whew! It's a wild, unforgiving ride. The plot never falls into sentimentality or the gee-shucks-feel-good resolution that many readers desire. Think about it: if you were a whore working the slums of Depression-era Sydney, would you come out of this a pretty pretty princess with her pretty pretty prince and ride off into the sunset on a white horse, etc.? Would the scrappy orphan find a home or rich benefactor to become her new family and sing and tap dance with ineffable cheeriness? No.Really, no.Look, it's not all doom and gloom, but Razorhurst is a dirty place, where no man or woman who wants to live will pull a punch. Upon further reflection, this honesty is one of the reasons Razorhurst grew on me as a book. Plot-wise, there really isn't a ton to go on, but atmospherically? This is a gold mine of down-and-out Aussie culture 80 years ago. Plus, Dymphna and Kelpie are two fantastic, yet very different, characters that you can't help rooting for. And if you're a bit worried about the paranormal aspect--don't be. My interpretation is that the ghosts underline the brutality of the times. They serve as a visual reminder of the blood spilled in the name of turf wars. They are witnesses to the razor wars, and they testify, in their own way.Not everyone will love this book, and I kind of like that. It means that it will be well-loved by those who appreciate it. Brava!I received an ARC of this title from Netgalley.

  • Angela Savage
    2019-04-06 10:47

    It’s a long time since reading a novel has made me gasp out loud, but it happened withJustine Larbalestier’sRazorhurst, a gripping, bloody, at times heartbreaking novel, set in Sydney’s inner east in 1932.The term ‘Razorhurst’, as Larbalestier notes in the ‘Acknowledgements & Influences’ section at the end of the book, was coined and deployed by journalists at the whimsically named Truth newspaper, to describe a culture as much as a place in 1920s and ’30s Sydney, where razor-wielding criminal gangs waged war for control of trades in sly grog, illegal drugs, prostitution, gambling and extortion. The era, and particularly its infamous vice queens, entered the contemporary consciousness through Larry Writer’s award-winning non-fiction work, Razor: Tilly Devine, Kate Leigh and the razor gangs, and the TV show, Underbelly: Razor, that it spawned.While Larbalestier cites Writer’s book among her influences, together with Ruth Park’s The Harp in the South, and Kylie Tennant’s Fouveaux, Razorhurst, as she describes it, is a ‘wholly imaginary book’ that manages to be thrilling, informative and moving all at once.The narrative point of view in Razorhurst alternates between Kelpie, a Surry Hills street kid of indeterminate age who sees ghosts and, as she muses, hasn’t been looked after by the living in some time; and Dymphna Campbell, ‘best girl’ of local mob boss Gloriana (Glory) Nelson. The novel opens with Kelpie and Dymphna meeting over the bloody corpse of Jimmy Palmer, Dymphna’s erstwhile lover and Glory’s top standover man. The key suspect behind Palmer’s death is Glory’s arch rival Mr Davidson.What unfolds over the following twenty-four hours makes up the novel’s intense and compelling narrative, as Dymphna takes Kelpie under her wing, and both young women struggle to distinguish friend from foe and survive the night.Kelpie and Dymphna’s narratives are interspersed with short, sharp (no pun intended) chapters about minor characters, settings and vignettes — e.g ‘Standover Man’, ‘Kelpie’s Theories of Ghosts’, ‘Gloriana Nelson’s Doctor’ — that add colour and depth without sacrificing pace. Somehow Larbalestier manages to balance a light authorial touch, while conveying a substantial amount of information and nuance.But the novel’s emotional punch comes from its characters: Kelpie and Dymphna are wonderfully rounded and convincing; but also engaging are writer and brewery work Neal Darcy; Mr Davidson’s Aboriginal standover man Snowy Fullerton; Old Ma, Kelpie’s esrtwhile carer; and Miss Lee, who taught Kelpie to read — not to mention Glory, Mr Davidson, and their respective entourages.Also worth noting is that the violence in Razorhurst, while bloody and vivid, is neither gratuitous nor glamorous (unlike the violence in the Underbelly TV franchise). The consequences of violence are shown to be brutal and heartbreaking. In a short chapter called ‘Funerals’, for example, Larbalestier writes:Hard to come back from burying your own child. They should not die before you. Parents die first, then children. That’s the natural order of things. Not in the Hills though. Not always. Sometimes it felt like not ever.Flowers and a coffin and a nice little burial suit did not to a thing to ease the ache in your heart. That’s what the alcohol was for.That and to put you a few steps closer to your own grave. Why live once your children were gone?Razorhurst has won awards as Young Adult fiction for Older Readers, although I could see little to distinguish it from an adult read, apart from (possibly) the age of the main protagonists. Highly recommended.

  • Lindsay
    2019-03-30 14:39

    Sydney's deadly Razorhurst neighborhood, 1932. Gloriana Nelson and Mr. Davidson, two ruthless mob bosses, have reached a fragile peace—one maintained by "razor men." Kelpie, orphaned and homeless, is blessed (and cursed) with the ability to see Razorhurst's many ghosts. They tell her secrets the living can't know about the cracks already forming in the mobs' truce. Then Kelpie meets Dymphna Campbell, a legendary beauty and prized moll of Gloriana Nelson. She's earned the nickname "Angel of Death" because none of her beaus has ever survived knowing her. Unbeknownst to Kelpie, Dymphna can see ghosts, too, and she knows that Gloriana's hold is crumbling one henchman at a time. As loyalties shift and betrayal threatens the two girls at every turn, Dymphna is determined not only to survive, but to rise to the top with Kelpie at her side.Razorhurst is dark and dangerous, lethal and haunting. It's a glimpse of a time, of a neighbourhood, caught up in a crumbling agreement. A glimpse of two young women trying to navigate their way out while hands keep grasping at them, pulling them back in.Kelpie is sweet and alone, a lost orphan girl. Left to her own devices, which aren't in great number. Left to scour the streets for food and shelter, left to hide from cops and Welfare. Left to be raised by ghosts. Dymphna is beautiful, mysterious. Deadly. The men who she becomes involved with can't stay alive for long. There's darkness in her past, a past she's run from, a past she hides as she lives in a fancy apartment, bought with money earned as Gloriana Nelson's best girl. Both of these young women come together by accident, by happenstance, and become immersed in a dangerous plot. Surrounded by guns, razors, and shouting ghosts, each must trust the other if they both want to survive.The way this book is written is a curious kind of exploration, both of character and of setting. Chapters that alternate between plot, Kelpie and Dymphna's race to keep themselves hidden and alive, and insight and history. The history of why the neighbourhood is called Razorhurst, of where Kelpie came from and the times the ghosts helped her eat and learn, of where Dymphna ran from and how she ended up a prostitute. Moments of the past, glimpses into characters and the events that shaped them. As a fan of storytelling, I was very intrigued.This is a dense book, full of detail, of worried thoughts and dangerous characters. It's a density that kept me reading, kept me wondering. Who was Kelpie's birth family? Would the war between Gloriana Nelson and Mr. Davidson going to come to a head? Will Kelpie or Dymphna ever say out loud that they can see ghosts? Will both young women survive? As this book takes place during a time period in a country I don't know too much about, I was eager to learn of its history, that the author drew from her neighbourhood and looked at its bloody past. Looked at the ways women were treated, the jobs they took in order to support themselves, and the power they fight to keep. I would definitely recommend this to all readers, to historical fiction fans and ghostly mystery fans and those looking for a new story.(I borrowed an e-book copy of this title from the library.)

  • Tracey
    2019-04-26 15:47

    Dymphna’s beauty makes her the prized possession and money earner in Gloriana Nelson’s brothel. Yet her beauty also means that men want to own her and are prepared to go to any lengths to have her that includes murder. When Dymphna finds latest beau Jimmy Palmer with his throat slit and the police banging on the door and finding an exit is not looking good. Kelpie having been tricked by a ghost to enter the house Palmer is in is surprised to find an extremely beautiful woman standing over the body. In that moment Kelpie and Dympha become linked as they both need to find a way to survive. That is pretty much the essence of the story as it develops over the next 24 hours. First of all I have a huge interest in the period of history that this book is set in, Sydney in the 1930s when the razor was the weapon of choice. It is a bleak and ugly time with some wonderful characters. For me it was fairly easy for me to realise the historical background of a fictional character. I knew that Dymphna was a combination of Dulcie Markham and Nellie Cameron and Gloriana Nelson was Tilley Divine and Kate Leigh. Larbalestier has really done her research and paints a realistic Sydney in the 1930s. I have to be honest as I was reading the book and I was somewhere near the 200 page mark, I was wondering what was this book about and whose story was it? I did not mind the multiple points of view but it was never clear what the ultimate goal for the two characters was. I mean after coming together what were Dymphna and Kelpie hoping to achieve? Escape from the criminal world, escape from the ghosts, a life that is their own as it was never clear what they wanted until the very end. The two main protagonists are thrown together by chance, they come from very different backgrounds and they both share the ability to see ghosts. Dymphna never mentions this skill at all to Kelpie until near the end of the book. You just seem to be following these two characters, switching point of view but neither is really driving the story forward. Dymphna tends to take the lead for the majority of the story but she just seems to want to straighten the mess out. As for Kelpie, her name is appropriate as she tags along like a puppy and apart from the ending I am not sure what her purpose is. It was frustrating because I liked the characters, they had depth, they were flawed and they made smart and dumb decisions. You became emotionally invested in them as you wanted them to rise above those holding them back. The ending well that was a disappointment. Not because of the lack of happy ending, that did not bother me in the least. What annoyed me was Mr Davidson with his quick and sudden prominence in the ending. I understand why, it had been set up during the story but maybe I did not appreciate why Dymphna did not want to work or be with him. I liked the book, I liked the world creation, I liked the use of the ghosts and it was a really unique take on a historical theme. The brutality of the gangs, the seediness of Sydney, the corruption and the poverty is expertly crafted. There are a lot of things going for the book and I enjoyed it.

  • Courtney
    2019-04-19 12:39

    1932, Sydney: the Australian government has outlawed guns, so gangsters have perfected the art of killing with razors. The most dangerous part of town, Razorhurst, is home to two rival gangs known for their ruthlessness. Kelpie has been living on the streets for years. How many, she's not sure. She doesn't even know how old she is nor does she know her parents. She was raised by Old Ma until Old Ma died. Then Kelpie was raised by Old Ma's ghost. Now, Kelpie knows enough not to trust every ghost she meets, but heads into the boarding house looking for the apples a local ghost had promised were there. Instead of apples, Kelpie finds a young woman standing over her sliced-up boyfriend. That young woman is Dymphna Campbell, Razorhurst's top prostitute, also known as the "Angel of Death" since none of her boyfriends seem to survive. She works for the infamous Gloriana Nelson, one of the two crime bosses that have given their Sydney neighborhood its name. Dymphna and Kelpie could not possibly be any more different, but they have one major characteristic in common: they can both see and hear ghosts. Dymphna has been successful in hiding her ability; even ghosts don't realize she can see them. Kelpie believes she's the only one who sees them, but she's at least learned not to speak to them in the company of other living folks. The dead man that Kelpie and Dymphna meet over is Glory's top standover man and Dymphna's boyfriend. And his ghost will not shut up. Kelpie wants no more to do with these people, but Dymphna has actually been hoping to meet Kelpie for a long time. Dymphna intends to take Kelpie under her wing and help to navigate life with their unique shared ability. Kelpie helps to get Dymphna away from authorities as they arrive to investigate the dead body. The girls then embark on a tense, day-long mission to elude Mr. Davidson and the authorities while not making anything worse for Glory. Maybe, just maybe, they'll both have lives left to salvage at the end of the day. I loved, loved, loved this book. Not only did I get to read about an era of history that I knew literally nothing about, but the story itself was great. It's hard not to be a little wary of historical fiction that uses a supernatural element, but in this case, the ghost aspect was fascinating. The writing was fantastic; its use of period slang genuinely emphasized the sense of place. Kelpie and Dymphna are both amazing and complex characters. Even the secondary characters are fleshed out (without slowing down the plot any). The pacing is swift, especially since the entire book's action takes place within a 24-hour time span. It never sacrifices its integrity for the sake of brevity, however. Instead, it is refreshingly concise. One gets the sense that there's not a single wasted word. This may not be a book for everyone, but for those looking for an experience both educational and entertaining, Razorhurst will be a rare treat.

  • Kelly (Diva Booknerd)
    2019-04-12 15:50

    3½ Stars. was sassy, sultry and a brilliant take on gangland warfare with a paranormal twist. Keplie, named after the likeness to being a wild pup, is a phenomenal young lady, her life has been little more than tragedy and destitution but yet she's tough, feisty and isn't afraid to go down swinging. She and Snowie were raised by a woman known as Old Ma, who would tell Kelpie the story of how her parents died before being able to name her. It wasn't long before Old Ma had passed as well, and Kelpie relied on her ghosts to keep her safe, leading her to food and away from trouble. But for the past few years Kelpie has been on her own. Her clothing is threadbare and disintegrating, her hair wild and knotted and not only can't she remember the last time she ate, she has no idea how old she is. Kelpie broke my heart, her short life thus far was incredibly sad and finding Jimmy's dead body only added to more trouble the young girl doesn't need.Dymphna is a prostitute. Not only does she know that Kelpie can see and speak to the dead, but she holds the same gift. She knows to survive the streets of Surry Hills, she needs the protection of her man, but a succession of murdered boyfriends has now left Glory's 'best girl' alone and vulnerable. The two girls were essentially from two very different worlds, but brought together through circumstance and now share a bond. I loved the glimpse of Sydney during the Razor Gangs era, where it's said that the surge in organised crime was caused by the prohibition of sale of cocaine by chemists, street prostitution and the local watering holes closing at 6:00pm each night. It paved the way for the Davidson and Glory's of the era to run racketeering and underground crime syndicates. The paranormal aspects of Razorhurst only seemed to serve the purpose of Dymphna and Kelpie meeting, and sharing Kelpie's memories of how she survived the streets. I would have enjoyed it more so without it, it took what could have been a very realistic scenario of that era and added a element that felt incredibly out of place. Regardless of the gift both girls shared that let the storyline down, I really enjoyed it. It was slow to start, but the sorrowful story of Kelpie drew me in, and the seedy underworld of the Razor Gangs kept me enthralled. If you're a fan of mobsters, hired goons or the tough street life and hard living of the twenties and thirties, you'll love this one.

  • Eugenia (Genie In A Book)
    2019-04-16 07:43

    *This review also appears on the blog Chasm of Books*4.5 starsI received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest reviewSet in 1930's Sydney, Razorhurst is a piece of YA historical fiction that doesn't shy away from the gritty mob warfare and criminal undercurrents of the time. As a big fan of the genre already, I was definitely impressed with Justine Larbalestier when she delivered something so impressive. Full of dynamic characters and a plot which delves into mystery with a paranormal twist, I can certainly say that I will definitely be reading more of this author's work in the future!One thing which I found really interesting in this book was the setting. The map at the beginning serves as a reminder of the streets and places which Dymphna and Kelpie find themselves in, and added that little extra bit of reality to the story. This novel delves into the 'underbelly' of Surry Hills and gives some insight into the darker side of town. With two ruling mobs over Razorhurst, there's no wonder that people would want to be looking over their shoulders. Kelpie and Dymphna themselves were two really interesting characters to read about. After meeting over a dead body, the two strike up an unlikely friendship of sorts. Aided by the fact that they both can see ghosts, their tale is definitely an interesting one. I like how the paranormal aspect came into play, and even though it did get a tad confusing at times over just who the ghosts were in the scheme of things, overall this aspect added that extra little twist to this already fascinating story. The writing style itself suited the nature of the book, and even though the third person perspective did at times seem a bit impersonal, the distinct voices of Dymphna and Kelpie still shone through with their own POV's scattered throughout the chapters.CONCLUSIONIn conclusion, Razorhurst is definitely an impressive book which ticks the right boxes and delivers what it promises. I can't wait to see what Justine Larbalestier writes next, and if this is anything to go by - it's going to be amazing.

  • ExLibris_Kate
    2019-03-29 07:40

    It was obvious to me from the very beginning of Razorhurst that this was a story built by extensive research and gifted world building. I can’t think of a book that has sucked me into its pages in quite the same way that Razorhurst did. Not only does it have all of the blood-soaked, brutal features of a mob story, it ha the added bonus of ghosts. Of course, our two heroines can see the ghosts, and the way that the spirits speak to them and try to get their attention was both eerie and fascinating. The story really gets going with a gruesome murder that brings Dymphna, a highly paid prostitute, and Kelpie, a malnourished street kid with a back story that puts any Dickens character to shame, together. As they try to dodge both Dymphna’s Madam and another local mob boss, the reader gets to peek into the lives of both girls as well as the lives of various other residents of Razorhurt.I loved both main characters, but I especially loved Kelpie. With a series of ghosts helping her at various times in her life, she managed to survive, and that unstoppable instinct to live is what made me admire her. Its also what made her friendship with Dymphna that much more touching. Here were two girls who couldn’t have come from circumstances that were more different, and yet, they really understood each other. Their shared abilities and their determination to survive actually made them quite a good match as friends. In between the murder and the blood of this story, was a book about two people finding each other when they desperately needed a friend. While very few characters that started the book made it to the end, I really loved the ending. In fact, I really loved the whole thing. Razorhurst was fascinating for its wonderful storytelling and its fabulous world building. This may have been a book that flew under your radar, but I strongly urge you to put it on your reading list and give it a chance.

  • Tien
    2019-04-10 14:36

    It was a last minute’s decision to attend the book launch for Razorhurst though it was such a enjoyable night listening to Justine Larbalestier talk about the inspiration behind this book and the research into the historical background of this novel. Her passion, not only for writing but also for this dark-piece of Aussie history, was easily felt and very contagious. I dived into this brilliant novel with a very high expectation.I expected ghosts. I expected tough characters. But what I didn’t expect was the complex layering of the book. Whilst we follow 2 main characters (Kelpie and Dymphna), there were several other perspectives injected throughout the novel along with some historical background (fictional and / or real) to either characters or setting. This could easily have been a pretty mess of structure BUT I was amazed that it wasn’t at all. It was done expertly and it worked a treat –a remarkable feat!The ending saddened me, somewhat. Honestly, I knew not to expect a neat little package tied up with a bow. In all possibility, with the mafia involved, that just wasn’t realistic still... it didn’t stop me being sad although I think, Justine Larbalestier managed to find just the right amount of mess to be realistic and yet, still gave some sense of optimism. Razorhurst is not your typical paranormal (romantic) novel despite the ghostly encounters. It is rather a novel to be appreciated by point of structure, characters, and historical value (especially if you’re a Sydneysider). It was hard for me to really understand just how hard the life these young girls had in those days. For parents of younger audiences, I’d suggest some parental guidance / discussions. I don’t have girls of my own but if I do, this book is not to be missed as a book to read together as it has the potential of really good discussions.

  • Badseedgirl
    2019-04-06 11:39

    This was a fantasy novel that did not need the fantasy and a horror novel that was not horrific in the traditional sense. This novel was about a day in the life of 1930's Australia, rife with gangsters and the violent lives these women (and men) lead. The supernatural aspects of the novel deal with the two major characters ability to see ghosts. Kelpie,the first main character, is a young orphan who has lived on the street raised by ghosts that she feels she is the only one who can see. The second is Dymphna, a high class call girl who has plans to become more, and has been hiding the fact that she is also able to see ghosts.This novel did not need the ghosts. It would have been amazing as just a plain old thriller. The story harkens back to those old gangster novels, but with an interesting twist, this is a novel about women, and strong women at that. All the women in this novel are strong and interesting characters. Kelpie lives in a world of women, men are in the periphery. They are there but are props for the women characters to move around the board that is Razorhurst. I loved this novel. I want to read more like this novel. The female characters were rich and well developed, from the main characters of Kelpie and Dymphna, to the supporting characters, of Glorianna, Old Ma and Miss Lee. Unfortunately, the same can not be said for most of the male characters, who seemed to be a bit one demensional. The Author was able to create a very convincing world. I felt like I was running on the streets of Razorhurst, and because the character and world building were so good, the novel flew. This novel is receiving a well deserved 4.5 stars from me.

  • Anne
    2019-04-16 14:55

    My daughter was given this book to review and has done so for the publisher. It was then passed along to me since I like true and historical crime and while this is fiction rather than true crime she raved about it so much I had to read it myself.Historically accurate to the time it was set during the razor gang era and certainly the characters were well formed and researched you could easily picture yourself in the late 1920's early 1930's with this group of people operating it was like a YA version of Underbelly. Dymphna "The Angel of Death" made me draw parallels to Pretty Nellie from underbelly and Tilly Devine she was a wonderful mix of both in my opinion just a lot younger and perhaps smarter. Kelpie was an interesting addition to the story so often the street urchins are left in the shadows so it was nice to see the life on the street acknowledged and the hardships of the era addressedSet in Surry Hills or "Sorrow Hills" as the local refer to it gives a view of life back in the day and what a stuggle it was for most it is both historically correct and saddening, I loved the added addition of the ghosts especially the ones that could speak and in some cases just never shut up.This is far from just a YA book but suitable for anyone who loves this era and has a passion for a well written crime story with twist and turns abounding. I am giving it a 5/5 as that is the highest I can go and really it doesn't do it justice I would love to see this variation on the big screen on day it would be amazing with all the ghostly affects - one can hope. definitely a great read. I highly recommend it and so does my teenage daughter.

  • Claire
    2019-04-04 10:55

    What I Thought: Razorhurst is fast, thrilling, dark and dangerous, and it will leave you wanting more than just the one book.Razorhurst is about gangs and life in an Australian town in the 1930's. It follows the POV's of two girls - Kelpie and Dymphna. Kelpie is a a dirty, malnourished girl who lives on the streets, and can see ghosts. Dymphna is a gorgeous girl who lives a lavish life, and who can also see ghosts. They come together by fate, over a dead body, each already knowing who the other is, and starting on a whirlwind journey over a twenty-four hour period.Yes, this 365-page novel takes course over a twenty-four hour period, and you won't even realise because Larbalestier does such a damn good job of disguising that fact. We get to see behind the curtains of gang life with competing mob bosses, and watch the two girls try and figure out how to stay alive, and out of gaol.Larbalestier also gives us intermittent chapters that give us flashes into each of the characters lives, how they lead up to this point, and how the town and the mob bosses came to be. At first, it was semi-confusing trying to keep up with it all, but once you get into the rhythm of the story, you'll be flying through it like there's no tomorrow.The Good: I loved the background stories, and how everything manages to fit together.The Bad: Both main characters annoyed me at one point, I seriously wanted to strangle them both.Rating: 4 stars