Admirers of urban-fantasy novelist Charles de Lint might be surprised to find that the Ottawa writer’s new novel, his first full-length work in three years, is a marked and decisive shift away from the Newford mythos and milieu that has infused his fiction for more than a decade. Surprised, but not disappointed: The Mystery of Grace is as strong a novel as de Lint has yet written, full of mystery, magic, and genuine freshness.
Altagracia “Grace” Quintero is young, attractive, heavily tattooed, and a hot-rod devotee. She holds down a job at Sanchez Motor Works and rebuilds classic Fords in her spare time. She has grease under her nails and a limited romantic history. When she meets John Burns at a club on Halloween night, the chemistry is immediate. They spend the night together, but as the sun rises, Grace disappears.
John is an artist and a bit of a loner. His single night with Grace, and her unexplained disappearance, affect him deeply, and he begins to search the city of Santo del Vado Viejo, de Lint’s imagined Southwestern setting, for the mysterious woman. What he finds, though, cuts him to the core: Grace Quintero was killed by a gunman during a convenience store robbery – two weeks before the night she and John met.
The Mystery of Grace is a love story that crosses the line between life and death, a mystery with philosophical and spiritual implications, a thriller based on faith and courage, rather than incident, and an extended meditation on memory and the value we place on the stuff of a life. Rooted in strong characters and ideas, it’s a compelling read, genuinely exciting and unsettling, with a powerful sense that anything might happen. No one is safe and nothing is sacred here, which makes for a thrilling experience.