Thank you to Turner Publishing for providing a free ARC for my review.
I was given this book for review several weeks ago, but I got a bit too busy, so I’m breaking my “every other Sunday” schedule to get this review out a bit sooner.
The setting is 1920 on Ellis Island. Immigrants are pouring into New York Harbor with just the clothes on their backs and dreams of a new life. World War I is over, but the world is still feeling the aftereffects, and as we all know, old hatreds and fears die very slowly. Stephen Robbins has a special talent for finding people, and when his mysterious contact shows up at his workplace with the story of a pregnant Irish girl gone missing, he somewhat reluctantly takes on the task of finding her because he is dealing with his life issues. Stephen stumbles upon not just one strange vanishing but several. He, along with Lucy Paul, one of the nurses on Ellis Island, work together to get to the bottom of the disappearances.
I’m not a big fan of books that deal with the World Wars, but this book focuses on the aftermath of WWI, which I found to be a more unique perspective. In the 1920’s (like now, and probably like always) racist, classist, ableist, and of course religious tensions divided people, and this tension is a major theme of the novel. Some of the characters working on Ellis Island have strong opinions about who should be considered an American. In many ways the book felt timeless because we’re still dealing with these prejudices today (which is also depressing– do we ever learn from history?). The antagonists in the novel are disturbing because their motivation is so realistic, especially considering the arguments regarding immigration we have seen in the past few years. I’ve always found that the most chilling “bad guys” are not fantastical monsters; instead they are regular people with monstrous motives.
I also enjoyed the protagonists. Stephen is certainly an interesting character. He appears in the novel with a specific job to do, but it is clear that he has development off the page that fleshes him out more. The same can be said for Lucy. Lucy and Stephen worked together well, and I liked that their respective talents were utilized throughout the plot. It felt like one could not have solved the mysteries without the other. There is a bit of a romance within the novel, and though it wasn’t a major point of interest to me, it didn’t take over the plot and it felt genuine if perhaps a bit quick for my taste. But keep in mind I’m not a big fan of romances in general, so your mileage may vary.
The plot was interesting, and though I saw a few events coming, I wouldn’t call it predictable. Even when I thought I knew where the story was going, I still had questions about exactly how these things would play out, and I was surprised by some of the answers. I wasn’t entirely on board with the plot’s pacing though. There was a very dramatic event around halfway through the book, and after it happened, I was surprised that there was so much of the book left because it felt like things could wrap up rather quickly afterwards. After this tense event there was a lull in the pacing and the book left the mystery/thriller genre and started to feel like a courtroom drama, which I’m not as into. However, there were a lot of reveals during this time. Then tension built up again, and the sort of “second climax” at the end of the novel wrapped up quickly.
I found My Mistress’ Eyes are Raven Black to be a very solid historical mystery that had me turning the pages fast once I got into it. I gave it three and a half stars out of five.