When Evelyn Hazard's level-headed husband, Robert, one day announces that he can speak to ghosts, she is predictably unnerved. Hazardous Spirits, an absorbing thriller from Anbara Salam (Belladonna), follows Evelyn and Robert's tumultuous journey into the spiritualist movement, with Evelyn an occasionally hostile skeptic as Robert's "gift" garners increasing attention and accolades.
Salam imbues the story, set in windswept, rainy Scotland in the 1920s, with the frantic desperation of a country still reeling from World War I and the Spanish flu, which took the life of Evelyn's younger sister, Dolly. Robert's heart condition prevented him from serving in the military, so he believes helping people reach their lost loved ones allows him to be useful. Obsessively preoccupied with propriety, Evelyn initially tries to dissuade Robert from his new hobby--but eventually her true concerns become apparent, as Dolly was the only person who knew the devastating secret that could cause Evelyn's whole life to fall apart. She must also grapple with Robert's motivation: either he can genuinely commune with the spirit world, or he is a con man who has managed to deceive everyone around him, including his wife. "Maybe he did have a gift, a gift of genuine magic," Evelyn muses. "But then, that would mean he was someone she didn't know, someone she had never known. Someone unknowable."
This chilling and surprisingly witty mystery forces Evelyn to question whether those closest to her are just as arcane as the ghosts and secrets she so viscerally fears. --Angela Lutz, freelance reviewer