These Toxic Things
August 27, 2021

Book Review

These Toxic Things

reviewed by Fiona Cook

Rachel Howzell Hall is hardly an unfamiliar name if you enjoy a good mystery – but her latest, These Toxic Things, shows she’s only just begun to show readers what she can do.

Michaela – Micky – Lambert works as a digital archaeologist, creating virtual treasure troves that showcase her clients’ memories and treasured keepsakes, personally investigating and curating origin stories and contextual information. She’s on the outs with her boss-turned-boyfriend, her newest client has unexpectedly died, and now she’s receiving notes – someone is stalking her, and she’s starting to wonder if there’s anyone she can truly trust.

This was such a fun and thrilling book! Rachel Howzell Hall writes such realistic and relatable characters, and Micky Lambert is the perfect flawed heroine. Whether she’s indulging at brunch with a friend, or turning an investigative and analytical eye on her clients’ memories, she’s the kind of person you instantly want to root for. Family is at the heart of her world, and refreshingly, she’s not afraid to turn to them – there’s no “mysteries” solvable with a simple conversation here, and Micky clues her parents in to the situation at a completely reasonable stage. It’s an approach that reinforces the realism of the novel, and I appreciate an author willing to put the effort in to make that work.

The mysteries that thread through the story, too, are just so beautifully and carefully crafted. The author had me positively glued to the page, torn between wanting to race through to the end and find out what was going on, and drawing the book out longer to keep from having to let it go too soon. It’s the best kind of dilemma a writer can induce, and Rachel Howzell Hall really managed balancing tension with enough breathing space to keep it all from becoming too much.

These Toxic Things is another excellent book in the author’s body of work, one that makes me very excited to see what she’ll do next.

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