Publisher’s Weekly

This New & Poisonous Air

A sinuous, antiquated style proves marvelously effective in these dark Stared Review in Publisher’s Weekly for This New & Poisonous Airand imaginative tales by author McOmber. The title story, set in medieval Europe during the plague, finds an otherworldly 10-year-old girl taking up with a mysterious traveler when her father goes in search ofgrave-digging work. It is slowly revealed that the traveler is using her as a prop so that he can move freely from town to town (“men with daughters in tow are a more sympathetic lot”). Inevitably he falls ill, leaving her with the prospect of abandonment once more, but by then it’s clear that this resilient girl can survive on her own. Other tales are similarly enchanting, allusive, and intriguing. “There Are No Bodies Such as This” recreates the early career of Madame Tussaud as she learns the wax-making trade, fashions figures of the royal family at Versailles, and flees Paris during the Reign of Terror. In “Fall, Orpheum” a teenage girl slips through a door on the stage of a legendary movie theater and vanishes into a jumble of ageless stories. Writing with a sure hand and an impressive imagination, McOmber depicts that seamless scrim between the real and imagined. (June)