Ropa talks to ghosts. She acts as a messenger between the living and the dead, delivering mostly mundane messages, and occasionally recipes for the perfect Battenberg. Sometimes the dead are really annoying, but lately something seems amiss. Children are going missing, and some are returned shrivelled husks of their former selves. Ropa needs to make the rent, but can she ignore the plight of Edinburgh’s lost children?
I loved The Library of the Dead so much. It’s set in a near-future Edinburgh where there are no cars and electricity is scarce. What happened to make it this way isn’t clear, but it sounds like the end of fossil fuels has occurred. Ghosts are a fact, and Ropa’s ghost talking work is highly regulated, meaning she has to reel off the terms and conditions and recipients of messages are obliged to pay her for them. Even if they’re a bit crap.
She uses music to help hone into the ghost’s voice. They start off sounding booga-wooga-wooga, which made me laugh, and her mbira brings them further into her realm. Many of them just need to say one thing to their relatives to move on, some of them just won’t let go. Ah, unrequited love goes beyond the grave.
Kenny’s booga-wooga-ring and gesticulating while he’s at it too. The things I must endure. Anyway, gotta keep it pro. I take my mbira, twang it to get the harmonics sorted for him.
Ropa lives in a caravan with her sister and gran, on farmland where the farmer realised charging people to be on his land was easier than actual farming. She makes sure her little sister goes to school and does her best to earn money to keep them safe and fed. I liked that this story wasn’t just set in the historic parts of Edinburgh, but covered the newer and poorer areas too. I loved revisiting the city in its changed state.
The story revolves around the mystery of the missing children and isn’t really about the library of the title. I get the feeling it will play a bigger part in future books, and I can’t wait to read them!
Tinashe Warikandwa was the perfect audiobook narrator, her accent made me a little nostalgic for my childhood in Scotland. Ropa listens to audiobooks and podcasts as she pounds the streets, and I felt like I was there with her. I liked her comments on narrators being important, it felt appropriate that hers was wonderful. The casual first person narrative makes this book highly suited to listening on audio.
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