Ropa Moyo is a fourteen-year-old high school dropout with green dreadlocks, black lipstick, and a massive attitude fueled by a ferocious intelligence. She has taken over her grandmother’s marginally profitable business as a ghost-talker, conversations which are made possible by finding the right tune on a Zimbabwean instrument called a mbira. She lives in a caravan parked outside a near-future ruined Edinburgh. Her biggest problems are sore feet from delivering messages from beyond the grave to their paying living relatives, keeping her little sister in school, and caring for her grandmother. Then she runs into a ghost who begs her to find her living son, who has disappeared.
The Library of the Dead would be Ropa’s dream come true, if she weren’t a trespasser on ground reserved for a privileged few. It’s a repository of all magical knowledge—along with the grave of David Hume—in a carved-out cavern below Calton Hill. Fortunately, some members are willing to bend the rules just a little to provide her with the dense textbooks she needs to learn to work magic. The ghost’s missing child is part of a series of disappearances, and no one but Ropa and her two friends from the Library, Priya and Jomo, seem willing to try to find the lost children.
This is a wonderful book with a fresh new voice. The author, T.L. Huchu, was born in Zimbabwe, but lived most of his life in Edinburgh. His familiarity with both cultures results in an unforgettable strange world, narrated by a completely realistic voice. I don’t think this is the last adventure for Ropa and her friends. Tiny print on the title page labels this book as “Edinburgh Nights Book One.”