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Children of Chicago by Cynthia Pelayo #BookReview

This horrifying retelling of the Pied Piper fairytale set in present-day Chicago is an edge of your seat, chills up the spine, thrill ride. ‪

When Detective Lauren Medina sees the calling card at a murder scene in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood, she knows the Pied Piper has returned. When another teenager is brutally murdered at the same lagoon where her sister’s body was found floating years before, she is certain that the Pied Piper is not just back, he’s looking for payment he’s owed from her. Lauren’s torn between protecting the city she has sworn to keep safe, and keeping a promise she made long ago with her sister’s murderer. She may have to ruin her life by exposing her secrets and lies to stop the Pied Piper before he collects.

Book cover for Children of Chicago by Cynthia Pelayo

Title: Children of Chicago | Author: Cynthia Pelayo | Publisher: Agora Books | Pub. Date 9 February 2021 | Pages: 231 | ASIN: B08LZNX17V | Genre: Horror | Language: English | Source: Netgalley ARC | Starred Review

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Children of Chicago Review

Children of Chicago is Ms. Pelayo’s debut novel and a love story about Chicago, all of Chicago, the good and the bad, throughout time. After college, I lived in what is called Old Town, just north of downtown, and fell in love with the city myself. Ms. Pelayo does a wonderful job as a historical tour guide.  Her protagonist goes for an early morning run through Lincoln park and I can see the same path I jogged over 25 years ago. She took me briefly back to Rosa’s for the blues, which is a wonderful treat.   A night listening to the Blues in Chicago starts with some kid playing a smoking guitar to a rhythm section and you’re damn glad you came to hear him.  Twenty minutes later the headliner comes out and you realize your mistake because he plays even better.  She walks through parks and neighborhoods, and never ever once mentions the abomination that is Chicago Pizza.  They serve it two ways and both ways are wrong.  The protagonist has an unhealthy obsession for coffee, good rich ethnic versions, and burned hours old vat coffee.  This also appeals to me. And then there is all the history of massacres, and tragedy, and violence over the centuries. The love for her city is clearly true and mature, seeing the beauty and the horror, and embracing both.

But this is a horror story after all so let’s get to that.  The blurb says it’s a retelling of the Pied Piper but that is not accurate.  The novel is a continuation of the Pied Piper story. The protagonist is Lauren Medina who is haunted by a tragedy in her past and something that she swears she does not remember.  That tragedy drove her to follow her father’s footsteps as a police officer, but perhaps also served to cut her off from real human companionship. Or maybe it’s the thing she doesn’t remember.  Who can tell? Her father has just passed away, her police partner (who had been her father’s partner) is just retiring, she shoved her husband of one year away, and her new partner doesn’t trust her.  Much of the story involves watching Medina stumble around the city on her own, drinking lots of coffee, and being desperately alone.

Children are killed. Children kill. And slowly a much older monster emerges from the background that may or may not be there at all.  As Medina begins to put the pieces of the puzzle together, both the puzzle of the murders and her own story, the pace quickens.

It is a fabulous book, with rich complex characters, terrific pacing, and a fantastic story for fans of horror fiction.  I absolutely give it my highest recommendation. Oh, and the dialog is wonderful.


Child murder, murdering children, dismemberment, mental health concerns

Children of Chicago will be published on February 9, 2021. You can purchase a copy of this book via your normal retailer, but please consider purchasing it from a local indie bookshop instead. It can be found here at Indiebound or at Bookshop. Please note the Bookshop link is an affiliate link and each purchase you make through it helps to support Sci-Fi & Scary and keep the site running.

Published inHorror Book ReviewsStarred ReviewsUncategorized

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