Maggie Estep lived a fascinating life. Novelist, poet, MTV correspondent. I think it would have been quite something to have known her when she was alive. Sadly, she passed (seemingly unexpectedly) in 2014.
Hex, her first book in the Ruby Murphy took me two tries to get into, not because it’s bad or complicated but because her style is so unique. Each chapter happens from the POV of a different character, and each character is infused with a lived-in personality. But the plotting happens at a glacial pace. Estep’s thing is to allow you to spend plenty of time with the characters before you know what’s going on.
She perfects that style in Gargantuan. Knowing now what to expect, I found this to be an improvement on the first book in the series, though I enjoyed both of them. This is more of a “thriller” than an actual mystery, although again, it doesn’t read like a thriller. But it allows us a deeper dive into Ruby’s life, the racing scene of New York City, and the quirky nature of the book’s characters.
I also like that these books portray a side of New York City you don’t often see. Most NYC-based novels take place in Manhattan or trendier parts of Brooklyn. Ruby is on the outreaches of the city and while others may romanticize Coney Island, it’s not presented as the most charming place to live. The book further reaches out to Aqueduct and Belmont. Since I’ve never spent serious time in those places, I have to keep reminding myself that this takes place in the city. That’s a good thing. I appreciate the tourist-y aspect of these novels.
I’ll have to get to book three at some point and that’ll be that. A shame.