Book Review: Razorhurst

Published By: SoHo Teen
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Page Count: 320
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss
Young Adult - Historical Fiction, Crime

Razorhurst is a historical crime novel with supernatural elements aimed at a YA audience. Set in Sydney’s Surry Hills and Darlinghurst area in 1932, it deals with the infamous Razor Gangs who ruled Sydney’s underworld at the time. Guns were not available, so criminals would carry old-style straight edged razors. They were easy to conceal, deadly when used, and could be dismissed as a shaving implement when one was picked up by the police. In the real world, the two competing gangs at this time were both run by women. In Razorhurst, they are run by Gloriana Nelson and Mr Davidson. 

Kelpie, a street urchin, is searching for food when she’s told to go and look in a boarding house for some apples. Here’s where the supernatural elements come into it. The boy telling Kelpie this is a ghost. In fact, she can see and hear ghosts all around her. Kelpie, starving, goes looking for the apples but instead finds the body of Jimmy Palmer. Jimmy was Gloriana Nelson’s top razor man, and boyfriend to her ‘best girl’, Dymphna Campbell, who also happens to be on the room. Dymphna and Kelpie are forced to run from the police with Jimmy’s ghost tagging along, much to Kelpie’s dismay. Dymphna may be the most sought after girl in Sydney, but she and Kelpie have more in common than Kelpie realizes. Dymphna needs to work out why Jimmy was killed, and whether Gloriana and Mr Davidson know about their plot to overthrow them and take over Sydney’s gangs. 

 The events of Razorhurst take place over just 24 hours, interspersed with flashbacks revealing both Dymphna’s and Kelpie’s pasts. The book is told from their alternating viewpoints and we learn quite a bit about the background of both girls. Both have had difficult upbringings, but they’ve handled them very differently. 

 I enjoyed the crime elements of the story and was keen to get to the resolution, and while I was personally disappointed with the outcome for a couple of the characters, the story was still well written. I found the supernatural elements somewhat superfluous. Jimmy was useful for giving Kelpie (and therefore the reader) information she didn’t know, but other than as a plot device, the ability to interact with ghosts didn’t add much to the story as a whole. I’d have enjoyed the story just as much without the ghosts. The setting and time period are fascinating, and I would love to see another story set in the same time period. 

 Razorhurst is a great read if you’re looking for a YA novel with a difference or if you are interested in Australian history.

The setting: Razorhurst, 1932. The fragile peace between two competing mob bosses—Gloriana Nelson and Mr Davidson—is crumbling. Loyalties are shifting. Betrayals threaten. 

 Kelpie knows the dangers of the Sydney streets. Ghosts have kept her alive, steering her to food and safety, but they are also her torment. 

 Dymphna is Gloriana Nelson’s ‘best girl’, experienced in surviving the criminal world, but she doesn’t know what this day has in store for her. 

 When Dymphna meets Kelpie over the corpse of Jimmy Palmer, Dymphna’s latest boyfriend, she pronounces herself Kelpie’s new protector. But Dymphna’s life is in danger too, and she needs an ally. And while Jimmy’s ghost wants to help, the dead cannot protect the living . . .