Hokey Pokey

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Pub Date 8 Jun 2023 | Archive Date 26 Jun 2023

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A grand hotel, a famous opera star and a psychoanalyst with a hidden agenda. Kate Mascarenhas's third novel offers her readers a glamorous, thrilling ride through murder, madness and the darkest recesses of the mind.

February, 1929. The Regent Hotel in Birmingham is a place of deception and glamour. Behind its six-storeyed façade, guests sip absinthe cocktails on velvet banquettes, while the hotel's red-jacketed staff scurry through its lavish corridors to ensure the finest service is always at hand.

In the early evening, a psychoanalyst checks in under a pseudonym: Nora Dickinson. Nora is young, diligent and ambitious. Though she doesn't see herself as a liar, she is travelling with an agenda. Having followed the famous opera singer, Berenice Oxbow, from Zurich to Birmingham, she's determined not to let her out of her sight.

But when a terrible snow storm isolates the hotel – and its guests – from the outside world, the lines between nightmare and reality begin to blur...

Praise for Kate Mascarenhas:
'Breathtakingly tender and wryly understated' New York Times
'Witty, inventive and unflashily wise about the human heart' Guardian

A grand hotel, a famous opera star and a psychoanalyst with a hidden agenda. Kate Mascarenhas's third novel offers her readers a glamorous, thrilling ride through murder, madness and the darkest...

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ISBN 9781789543841
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Average rating from 168 members

Featured Reviews

Very interesting read, I loved the characters and the plot, It had me guessing what would happen next. A great read.

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This was a surprising read, but an enjoyable one.

I have to say the cover and initial book blurb doesn't really give the full picture here. Yes, the tagline of "A grand hotel, a famous opera star and a psychoanalyst with a hidden agenda", is accurate but...that's leaving out a whole lot of weird, supernatural shit that dominates the book!

Luckily, I enjoy weird, supernatural shit, when it's written well. And this is written well. Hokey Pokey was a great page-turner, with a fun mystery and a very odd protagonist at it's core.

Great fun - I'll check out other books by this author.

PS - anyone else picture 'Hyrings' like those dog things from Ghostbusters?

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What a deliciously dark read! Everything from the cover to the title drew me to this book although I would never have imagined where it would lead... A great read for those who can handle grotesque, stomach-turning scenes, and anyone who loves a mystery that keeps you questioning characters' intentions until the very end. Safe to say I'll be covering all mirrors before bed from now on!

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Well, I absolutely loved this. The first part settled me in for how I expected the rest of the novel to go, then part 2 shakes things up, and from then on, I was truly on the edge of my seat the whole way.

Shocking scenes that are memorable and surprising, an intriguing backstory, lots of complicated but colourful characters along the way. This is hard to define in a genre, historical doesn't quite cut it- this really has everything and more!

An unforgettable rollercoaster ride that entertained, enthralled and disgusted in equal measure in the best possible way.

Superbly unique.

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⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 "People are willing to show themselves in a hotel because it's an in-between kind of place. Normality is suspended. One is repeatedly exposed too strange, even dubious phenomena." This book was not what I was expecting at all in the slightest, but that was certainly not a negative as I read on.

This book follows Nora, a psychoanalyst, who travels to a hotel in Birmingham to spy on her "friend" Leo's wife, Berenice, to uncover her infidelities. However, when Nora arrives not all is as it seems as people disappear and secrets which were long meant to be kept hidden begin to arise.

I will start by saying that this book was not what I expected in the least. I believed that it would be a classic murder mystery, a whodunnit of the sort where there is killer in the hotel whilst all are trapped in due to the snow. However, it bore no great resemblance to that. It was instead a wonderfully bizarre tale spanning numerous different genres. There were elements of romance, fantasy, historical fiction, and crime. The fantastical element is what took me by surprise the most as it was as it was not mentioned in the summary. I did not mind the introduction of the hyring in the slightest, it was a unique surprise. But if what you are expecting from this book is a murder mystery set in 1920s Birmingham, there is an element of the peculiar.

Nora is one of the most uniqueI have ever read about. She is just extraordinary and slightly strange, yet you get too see exactly how her mind is working. The whole idea of her being a mimic was something I found rather confusing at the start, but interesting nevertheless. Her relationships with the different characters were all unique and easy to read about. I was also slightly confused about what the relationship between her and Leo was at the start. The more predominant characters in this book all easily recognised and memorable. In particular, Valery, whom I could read a book entirely dedicated to. The whole section regarding Nora's childhood was fast paced and captivating. It wasn't normal, none of the characters were, but then again this book makes you question what normality even is in the first place as everyone is slightly twisted.

The book went straight into the action, as you were instantly picking up characters and motives. However, I felt at the start reading about Nora it seemed rather lists- Nora this, Nora that, Nora said. However, that really only happened at the start so it didn't bother me too much. The rest of the writing was phenomenal and so crudely dark and poetic, flowing with each of the twists and turns as they came along. My main issue with this book is that I just don't believe it was what it was advertised to be. I didn't mind the element of fantasy, it just honestly wasn't expected. I also found it difficult to remember the more minor characters in the hotel after the section about Nora's childhood and her work in the hospital.

All in all this was an incredibly unique read and one that I recommend if you wish to read something fast paced and very twisted. Thank you netgalley for the arc!

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🍸hokey pokey by kate mascarhenas🍸

thanks netgalley for an arc of this book which will be published 8th June 2023


a queer mystery/fantasy set in the 1920's which follows a psychoanalyst with a gift of perfect mimicry to a hotel where the guests become trapped by a snow storm. there's ghosts and monsters and an obsession with one of the guests as the mysteries unfold. this isn't my usual read but the author wrote one of my favourite books, the psychology of time travel, so I had to read this. I went in with mixed feelings because I didn't enjoy their other book the thief on the winged horse, but I enjoyed this more. I really really recommend the psychology of time travel if you're into queer space books!

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I thought this was a pretty decent read, the authors very good at setting an atmosphere which really made reading it fun.. The ending wasn't to my taste but was overall a fun read.

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This is a twisty, dark, feat with a wild cast of characters. I thoroughly enjoyed. Huge thanks to the publisher for this ARC, via NetGalley.

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I honestly don't know how to talk about this book without spoiling anything, but let me say: what a ride. I was pleasantly surprised... and disturbed.

Before starting it, I expected a typical closed-space murder mistery with a slightly creepy touch. Then, when I started reading it, I thought it would probably end up being a novel like "The seven deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle" (which I really liked). And indeed it was similar to Evelyn Hardcastle, but way more disturbing (in the best of ways) and less complicated. Reading Evelyn Hardcastle and keeping up with all the characters and changes. In this book, however, there's a good balance between mistery, details and action.

When I had read only like 50 pages I felt like I had already read like 200. The book is fast paced, with just the right amount of descriptions and details. You won't like the main character as a person: from moment one you will suspect her intentions, doubt her point of view and question her morals. That's what makes her so interesting as a character and a narrator. The psychology of all the main characters is very well developed, but in Nora's case that's specially true because the whole book's purpose is to make the reader know her. In the end, you want her to success, whatever she chooses to do, because you understand her.

The plot is intriguing, and makes you want to keep reading from the first chapter because you need to know what's going on. The author makes you feel that there's something off, something hidden, something you are missing. To me, that's the most important quality in a thriller(ish?) book: the ability to keep you intrigued and interested. And this book definitely does that. But it also adds a touch of horror, or maybe gothic fantasy? I don't know why genre to classify this in.

I really liked it. I wouldn't recommend it to everyone, but if you liked "The seven deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle" or "The Shining" movie (I have not read the book, shame on me) you will probably enjoy this one. PLUS, it's quite short (<300 pages), so even if you don't like it as much as I did, it will be an entertaining short read.

Finally, when you read the author's note, you can see how thorough the documentation process for the novel was. I specially liked the insight on female psychoanalysts.

I will definitely check other books by this author. Thanks so much to NetGalley for the eARC!

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Not my usual read but I am so glad i did. It had me hooked the find out what was going to happen and I really loved the writing style. Would read more from the author.

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An atmospheric horror set in the early years of the 20th century. The Regent, home of the Hokey Pokey cocktail and the destination of psychoanalyst Dr Nora Dickenson. Nora is here to observe the opera singer Berenice Oxbow and report her findings to her former lover who just happens to be Ms Oxbow's husband. Sudden snow storms bind the guests to the mercy of the hotel and a mysterious predator who seems to know Nora and is keen to make her acquaintance again.

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It was surprising and intense. I really enjoyed it, and being set in 1929 just added to its charme.

Very enjoyable, or disturbing, take your pick.

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February 1929, set in The Regent Hotel in Birmingham, a glamorous, cocktail drinking murder mystery.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I requested to read this one, I wanted something out of my comfort zone. Even though it was horror, it was also mythical.

I enjoyed getting to know Nora, our FMC. I was engrossed in her childhood and what lead her to where she was. I was shocked at what she had to endure!!

The chapters were nice and short and Kate’s writing kept you turning those pages as you had to know what the hell was going on.

I don’t want to say too much but 100% recommend this, if you want something dark, mysterious and set in the 1920s!

Thank you Netgalley & Head of Zeus for supplying me a copy for an honest review

Makes me want to try a Hokey Pokey Cocktail now too.

What’s your favourite cocktail? I’ve got to love a White Russian!

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This just about hit four stars for me. A very readable psychological thriller with a supernatural twist. The creepy atmosphere built up well from the beginning. Setting the action in a snowed in hotel is a great touch which builds up the claustrophobia nicely, a la The Shining. The narrator is intriguing and I'm not sure I've come across anyone like her in other books. But it just didn't have the depth, especially towards the end, to tip it across from being good to being great.

Thanks to NetGalley, the author and publisher for an ARC in return for an honest review.

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Gosh.... this was much darker than I expected! A great sense of location - loved the descriptions of the hotel - and a very atmospheric novel. Beautiful descriptions and some brilliantly dark characters. I do think there's a bit of a disconnect between the cover and blurb and what's actually between the covers. This is a darker, more gothic and quite twisted tale than I'd anticipated. A good read, nonetheless, although outside what I'd usually read.

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Genre Bending..
An opulent hotel, a plethora of guests, a famous opera diva and a psychoanalyst with a rather unique gift. Nora Dickinson has an agenda and she is determined to carry it to fruition. Genre bending mystery with elements of suspense, romance, fantasy and the downright grotesque combine in this cleverly crafted tale which weaves a fine thread between reality and the realms of nightmares.

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Dr Nora Dickinson is on a mission. She has followed famous opera singer Berenice Oxbow to an upmarket hotel in Birmingham, hoping to discover whether the latter is up to no good. When the hotel residents are snowed in, Nora is forced to change her approach, but possessing as she does some unusual talents, she still makes progress in her quest. As the story unfolds, Nora’s history and the reasons for her interest in Berenice become clearer, and then, well just about anything can and does happen.
Fortunately, Hokey Pokey is a well written novel with strong characters, as everything else about it is unusual. In your wildest dreams you could not imagine how it might develop; entertaining, whimsical and sexy yes but grotesque and graphic at times too. A tale of coming to terms with what you are and maybe taking revenge when the opportunity presents itself, this is well worth a read, and while it’s a difficult book to review without the risk of spoilers and it drifted at the expense of maintaining the tension, I really enjoyed this, loved the possibilities in the ending

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Hokey Pokey by Kate Mascarenhas was one of those books that I couldn’t put down until I finished it and left me thinking about the story long after I finished the book- but while I’m still not sure if this was a book I liked, it is a book I won’t forget!
I received a copy for a free and unbiased opinion.
I was looking forward to a complicated psychological story and while there were elements of this, the book took a marked turn into another genre ( I don’t want to spoil the twist) which threw me. Nora is a complex character and her story is revealed bit by bit, I was never quite sure what was real and what wasn’t ( I really enjoyed this bit). There is also a murder in the background which adds more tension and mystery to the story as well as an interesting romance.
I loved the description of a British hotel in 1929, fascinating and the author has done her research with plenty of period detail.
I did feel there was a lot going on, and at times I found it hard to keep track of all the strands. I have to admit to having a strong physical reaction to one of the references to cannibalism which I think is a mark of the author’s skill as a writer,
I’ve would recommend Hokey Pokey would enjoy a book that challenges them but with plenty of atmospheres and historical detail.
Content Warning
References to Cannibalism

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This is definitely a case of a catfish cover with this one - I ain’t mad, I absolutely love the cover and it’s what sucked me in. I also very much enjoy the multiple genres that this one spans, but if you were settling in for a cosy mystery Agatha Christie style, that isn’t what you’re getting! This story combines elements of horror, gore and fantasy into the mystery storyline and it’s well worth investigating some content warnings if there are potential themes that aren’t for you!

In terms of my experience of the book I’ll be honest in saying it got off to a bit of a slow start for me, part one took some getting in to and after part two I was wondering what I was reading as it took a turn!! By the time I was half way into the book it was getting into its stride and I read the second half in one sitting. Whilst I won’t reveal too much of that, it was certainly a very interesting premise and incredibly dark!

In the end I did enjoy this one, it’s very difficult to talk about without revealing what some would consider spoilers given how little is revealed in the blurb - it reminded me a bit of “The Book Eaters” though darker and more graphic. Definitely one that I will recommend to the right readers.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for my EARC.

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Hokey Pokey has an intriguing premise - glamorous hotel, famous opera singer, and disappearing guests. It is narrated through the eyes of a possibly unreliable author, a female psychoanalyst with her own secrets. The nature of truth, obsession, identity and madness dominate the second half of the book where we are given a glimpse into the back story of the narrator before circling back to solve the hotel murders. Straddling different genres those expecting a traditional hotel murder mystery will be surprised to read something darker but more substantive. I would be interested to discover more books by this author.
Review copy via netbooks

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Hokey Pokey is my first book from Kate Mascarenhas and I am impressed. An escapist, supernatural, part-historical, part-crime novel with some truly original characters. At first glance it appears to be a locked-room mystery but Hokey Pokey proves to be so much more than that. I'd compare it to The seven deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. The cover is gorgeous and accurately captures what a multi-layered, slippery, lush novel this is.

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I read an eARC of this book so thank you to Net Galley, the author and the publisher for allowing this.

This book was far darker than I expected. From the blurb I wasn’t expecting the graphic horror that was contained. It was a really well written book but I’d strongly advise checking content warnings if there are subjects you find distressing before reading this. I might not have read this if I was aware in advance of some of the content it contained.

Warning aside, it’s excellent writing, tense, atmospheric, creepy. I read a previous book by this author that I found fascinating so I was keen to read more from them. While the earlier book was around time travel, this novel centres on psychology. There’s often times when you’re wondering what’s real and what’s not in this book, and questioning the sanity of many of the characters. We have an unreliable narrator in this story and we learn more about what has happened in her past to explain her behaviour in the present.

The setting of the hotel is unnerving, particularly as the guests are trapped in through heavy snow. The cast of characters are deliberately unlikeable leaving you unsure who to trust. Some very good reveals in the present storyline.

I did find this very well written, tense and engaging. It is very dark and if you enjoy that style of book then this has a lot to offer.

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A debut novel for this author and I feel it was well written. Loved the mystery and the thrill of the story. Look forward to more from this author.

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This was an unusual but compelling read. It was not what I expected but it was an intriguing tale non the less. There were clear Agatha Christie vibes - the story is set to a 1920s backdrop, the hotel guests are snowed in and there is a game afoot.
Not the historical fiction I expected but still a good read.

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This book was an instant favourite. Its flashbacks slowly fleshed out the protagonist and had some truly chilling moments. It had elements of mystery and a slightly indefinite ending to really get the imagination going. Massive recommend!

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Well that escalated quickly! This book was not what I expected - I thought it was going to be a thriller set in a hotel in the late 1920’s and it was, but it was also so much more! If you enjoy the supernatural and vampire type stories then this is the book for you! I enjoyed the trip out of my comfort zone!

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100% not what I was expecting at all….this is not a bad thing as it meant I went into the book pleasantly surprised and this continued throughout! A beautiful cover from the debut from this author, I am looking forward to reading more from this author. A great story related to the supernatural - I would recommend!

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The 1920s is such a special decade, full of discords. The bright young things and the shell-shocked. The optimism for the future and the inevitability of more war. The development of travel technology and the closing in of nationalism. It’s famous, of course, for Lovecraft’s existential horror, and the beginning of the golden age of crime. And Hokey Pokey sits somewhere squarely between that monstrous horror and desire for a good cosy mystery, with some cultural dissonance mixed in for good measure.

Hokey Pokey follows Nora, a psychiatrist and apparent investigator, as she follows opera icon Berenice to the opulent Regent Hotel in Birmingham, hoping to find evidence of her infidelity to report back to Berenice’s husband. However, a snow storm and some grisly murders mean that Nora and Berenice are stuck together, stranded in the hotel, and find common ground as they investigate further. This precis fails to cover the monstrous weirdness that also pervades this book, seeping in at its edges, like the melting snow outside the Regent, until the book is flooded with it.

At first, I wasn’t sure I was going to like Nora. I have a dislike for detectives who have some kind of otherworldly skill that means only they can solve mysteries — think Sherlock Holmes’s extra-ordinary feats of deduction, or Will Graham’s ‘affinity’ for serial killers. At first Nora appears to have an otherworldly skill … but then it is situated as otherworldly. Nora is very much not your average detective, and this somehow levels the playing field, as the very nature of her extraordinariness comes to the fore of the story.

In Berenice, there is the perfect celebrity idol, in this decade that was just starting to understand the power of celebrity. Berenice brings a glamour and hedonism that is infectious, and I very much enjoyed Nora falling under her spell. It always makes me happy when an apparently heteronormative narrative turns Sapphic!

While the mystery comes to play second fiddle to the weirder, more fairytale-like elements of the story, Hokey Pokey is still an excellent read for those who like to identify a monster. And while it’s not apparent from the very beginning, the horror and fantastical elements in Hokey Pokey will appeal to a wide range of niche audiences.

Hokey Pokey is released on June 8th, and is available to preorder here.

Review written with thanks to the publishers and Netgalley.co.uk for providing an e-advanced review copy.

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Hokey Pokey has established Kate Mascarenhas as an auto-buy author for me. I have really enjoyed all her books so far, if enjoyed is the word for something so disturbing and addictive.

Stepping into The Regent is stepping into a world that is both dazzling and hazy, understated and dark.

Nora is a psychoanalyst, who has followed her friends wife from Zurich to England, in an attempt to discover her affair. But when a snowstorm traps everyone from travel, and disappearances and murders begin, you find a lot more to this story than a 20s murder mystery.

This book had me questioning whether the psychological side of this story was more disturbing than the Brothers Grimm style violence, and had me gripped from start to finish. Thank you so much netgalley for the e-arc of this book.

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I enjoyed this book, I was attracted by the unusual description of it. Set in 1929, in the Regent Hotel in Birmingham, a psychoanalyst checks in to the hotel under a false name. Although this is fictional history, there is a glamour about it. The book is very atmospheric.
The story is a mixture of crime, magic and romance. The two main characters are women. In many ways they are typical of that time. As I settled into reading this book I realised it was not going to be straightforward, it took twists and turns from an everyday setting to magical events and mythical plots. It was however easy to follow, that is important to me when the story changes so much.
This was an unusual read, something that I appreciated for a change to my usual reading.
I look forward to more books by this author.

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Not your standard murder mystery!

The book opens with a sumptuous description of the hotel - it takes the reader straight into the setting, following Nora as she moves through the building and it sounds exquisite - Art Deco opulence at its finest. The style reminded me a little of the opening to programmes like Downton Abbey, where the camera follows someone through a building, picking up all the little details that identify the set as that of a period drama.

From the blurb and the front cover, I'd been expecting a straightforward crime novel, something that lay somewhere between cosy and proper crime but with a 1920s twist, perhaps akin to an Agatha Christie whodunnit, but perhaps a little darker in tone. However, it quickly became apparent that this book was anything but that! It was much more supernatural in tone and became extremely dark in places. I think the supernatural element may put some readers off, as it isn't mentioned specifically in the blurb, however, I loved it because it's what gives the book its unique character. It's a very unusual concept, but it's utterly compelling and it is this which leaves the reader never quite sure where they are and what's going on. In this instance, this is a good thing because it keeps them engaged and reading on in an attempt to find out what on earth is going on.

Reading the book is an experience in itself - just when you think you have a handle on it, something happens to throw you off balance again. Slowly the disparate elements begin to come together to form a cohesive story and as the pieces fall into place, it all begins to make a horrible sort of sense. Bordering on the macabre in places, this is not a book for the faint-hearted, but if you have the stomach for it, it's well worth a read. It defied every pre-conception I had about it and I absolutely loved it. At times it left me shaking my head, feeling a little nauseous and none of the characters are particularly likeable, but there's something about the whole package that is magical and the ending left me anxious for their future in so many ways.

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This was such a good book. I love historical fiction, especially when it is about eras/ situations that I previously knew nothing about and this was definitely one of those books. It was so well researched and so compelling in its narrative that not only did I love reading it but I felt that I learned too. A really enjoyable read and perfect for any fans of historical fiction. This is a first for me by the author and one I enjoyed and I would read more of their work. The book cover is eye-catching and appealing and would spark my interest if in a bookshop. Thank you very much to the author, publisher and Netgalley for this ARC.

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mingham, the UK’s unofficial ‘Second City’, features surprisingly little in contemporary thriller writing, so I was interested in how Kate Mascarenhas would use the city as a setting. I was not disappointed. We meet the novel’s heroine, Dr Nora Dickinson, in the 1920s and as soon as her job as a psychoanalysist is mentioned, we know we are in for a good read as this profession was highly unusual for women of the 1920s. When it becomes clear that Nora operates a sideline as a private investigator, the novel gets more exciting still. What will Nora find when she starts to shadow hedonistic opera singer Berenice?
An unexpected snowstorm finds both women holed up in the opulent Regent Hotel and the atmosphere is becoming more and more gothic, with people disappearing, a huge dog that appears in Faustian fashion to Nora but then fades away, and a ramping up of the threatening atmosphere. As other readers have commented before me, what makes this thriller so excellent is its precise prose combined with the acute psychological insights into the main characters. There are some passages that are overly long (the passages on Nora’s childhood and her prior links to Berenice’s husband, for example) but the overall effect is a fantastic gothic thriller that brings to life a fictional portrait of the 1920s and that deserves a wide readership. Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for the free ARC that made this book review possible.

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Normally I would start off my review with a brief overview of the story I've read but, as this book is so unique, I actually think that it's something that needs to be experienced firsthand. Therefore, I'm going to skip my take on the story lest I ruin Hokey Pokey's mystique. Onto the review...

First off, I would just like to say WOW. This book truly was something special. I love a story with magical realism, and this was exactly that. At some parts gross, at others beautiful, Hokey Pokey made me feel all the emotions. Kate Mascarenhas' writing style was beautiful and I loved every second of it.

One of my favourite things about this story was the fact that I had no idea what was going on and what was real at any point, in the best possible way. I also found it interesting, reading this, that all of the characters should have been unlikeable - being selfish, deluded, obnoxious, etc - but for some reason, I adored them all.

Overall, I loved everything about this book and would recommend it highly.

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First impressions - the cover drew me in it screams 1920’s drama. The blurb grabbed my attention as it’s exactly my favourite genre, a murder mystery whodunnit. I love 1920’s as it’s always portrayed as an exciting fast paced era full of intrigue, partying and a lot of shenanigans so I was excited to start this book.

Was my first impression accurate? Not entirely, here is why - yes it is a murder mystery set in a 1920’s posh hotel however I was not expecting a supernatural twist so when this element suddenly appeared I was a little disappointed as it is not really something I would read. I did however continue to read and I am glad I did as I did enjoy the storyline albeit a little weird. It had enough of the murder mystery element to keep me interested and I always wanted to read just a little more to see what happens next. It was quite dark with a few rather gruesome scenes scattered throughout, horror/supernatural meets drama.

All of the characters were quirky and gave their own interesting addition to the story, the lead character, Nora, was well portrayed and the writer gave us enough about her to get a feel for her displacement in life.

Overall I’d rate this as 4 out of 5 because the supernatural element appears to be concealed and it’s not my cup of tea, however it was an intriguing read and I did enjoy it.

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Hokey Pokey wasn't what the cover or indeed the blurb suggested and it certainly isn't my usual genre but I am glad I had the chance to read it. It's not for the faint hearted and you 'll have to suspend your disbelief but it's most definitely a truly unique story.

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Agatha Christie meets horror in the twenties. The book takes place at The Regent Hotel in Birmingham in February, 1929. Behind its six-storeyed façade, you're being transported to the glamour of the twenties. During a snowstorm everybody gets stuck in the hotel: an opera-star, a psychoanalist, a guy who lives at the hotel, the staff... The perfect setting for a something that's not right...

Psycholanalist Nora followed the famous opera singer, Berenice Oxbow from Switserland to Birmingham, to spy upon her. A request from her 'friend' Leo, Berenice's husband. Berenice has visions, one even about Nora's tattoo, which Nora tries to hide.

Then a first person disappears. What happens from then on bring back surpressed memories from the past for many guests. Reality and horror start to blend. The supernatural is never far away, yet it doesn't take the plot over entirely, which is something I loved!

The fast pace and the athmosphere of this book are great. If you like a good murder mystery that is skirting on the edges of the surreal, this book is definitely for you. Thank you NetGalley for the ARC!

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Wow what a great read I enjoy this style of writing had me gripped it was not what I thought I was thinking it a murder mystery read but it not more supernatural we I loved it good keeps you hook the cover I have to say drawed me into the book I loved it a very good book I not want to keep any plot away but want to read more

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I thoroughly enjoyed this story! It's unique and unlike anything I've ever read...

The idea of the main character being a mythical being is made believable, and I loved how as a reader I kept thinking: "is this real? is she real?" which made for a very thrilling journey. Nora has had a strange childhood, and her belief that she's a 'hyring' that can mimic and eat people, while travelling through mirrors is something I was dying to see in action. I really liked how her past shaped her- she's always trying to be someone else, usually someone she meets, and tries to embody them mind and soul. Her ability to suspend herself as a whole person and think she's this cold, cunning monster really made me think whether she's a psychoanalyst or a patient, and her whole reason for being a mind doctor.

As always, I adored the writing- it was descriptive and engaging, and I loved the many different plot threads. I think the marketing for this book changes what this book is actually about. We spend more time in Nora's past and in flashbacks than at the hotel itself. I didn't mind this, and I found that this gave more depth to the story and Nora herself. The twist I honestly didn't see coming, although the clues were there. I enjoyed the raw and gory exploration into the human mind, and the selfishness of humans and monsters.

Berenice was another character that I grew to love. She's someone who doesn't want to be tied down, while Nora is the opposite. Both of them are linked by Leo, who humiliates and uses Nora, and despite this she doesn't think she needs revenge. She is infatuated with both of them and by the end thee outcomes off-page show exactly her thoughts. She embodies the monster being she has always believed herself to be, and I honestly just wanted her to be happy in her own skin.

Hokey Pokey is definitely a unique story, unlike anything I've ever read, and I'm so happy I had the opportunity to read it early! Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for an e-arc!

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I really enjoyed reading this book.

The plot was well paced and I found that it kept me interested the whole way through.

Thank you for letting me review it.

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In 'Hokey Pokey' (I'd read anything because of that title, even if I weren't a flag-flying member of the Kate Mascarenhas fan club), we have the third hair-raisingly good installment of the Mascarenhas brand of Fantasy.

As per 'The Psychology of Time Travel' and 'The Thief on the Winged Horse', we get a crime mystery cloaked in Mascarenhas's sub-genre Low Fantasy/Urban Fantasy style, where uncanny or near-Sci-Fi elements affect a juiced version of what's essentially a locked-room mystery in her debut novel, and a long-play heist in her second.

In this novel, the author gives us multiple murders and disappearances to solve, but we also have clairvoyance, cannibalism, vampirism, portals, and shape-shifters. So, come prepared, if this is your first of her novels!

How did I feel approaching a new Kate Mascarenhas? Awed and enamoured; assured there would be magnetic characters and horrifyingly fine writing; also, unguarded, because I can always be sure I'll get a fair representation of non-heterosexual women with this author.

I found that, in this third novel, it's a different voice than the involved or nigh-flirtatious voice adopted in her previous two; in this novel, Mascarenhas's voice is detached; the novel reads lightly and quickly as reportage; it is subtly voyeuristic in the authorial remove from the action. This is exquisitely done, as it makes the guts of the book all the more eerie.

Yet! It is so, so, indulgent at that. Situated in early-twentieth-century Europe and Great Britain, the setting in the dreamy Regent Hotel, the food, the drinks (the delectable titular nettle-green cocktail), the dishy guests ('the Icon' opera superstar, Berenic Oxbow); it is all monstrously glamorous (or glamorously monstrous?!).

When we get to the action, and we're in the murder-mystery stage, 'Hokey Pokey' reads like some wonderfully twisted version of Roald Dahl for adults. There are moments of ravishing tension; scenes are rapturous, scenes are raw (there is a lot of blood). I might label it the anti-Paranormal Romance.

It's hard to review 'Hokey Pokey' without spoiling Mascarenhas's finely fashioned plot. Suffice it to say, 'Hokey Pokey' flutters and throbs with life. I had a physical response to this novel; much of it made me actually quiver. I felt, as I was reading, like a cup filled up to the brim, and just a little more, till the meniscus pushes at the air above it.

Phew! What a book!

My gratitude to Kate Mascarenhas and Head of Zeus for an eARC via NetGalley.

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At first glance the Regent Hotel seems like any other with a myriad of guests; however, something is not quite right and soon people start disappearing and then turn up murdered.

This was a 1930's story with some seriously supernatural twists. A gripping and twisted crime story that was full of creepy and twisted vibes; an original take on a crime novel.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

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Kate Mascarenhas does it again. Previously a psychologist, her debut novel The Psychology of Time Travel was one of my favourite reads of 2018 and a story that has stayed with me ever since. When you consume as much fiction as I do in a year, a novel staying with you for more than five years is quite rare. And yet, it looks like we have a repeat event with this year’s book Hokey Pokey. It’s a little different to Mascarenhas’ previous two novels - a thriller with a touch of horror, for one; and set back in the late 1920s.
Set primarily in Birmingham, in and around the Regent Hotel, the author sets the scene well - you almost feel as though you’re in art deco era Great Britain. It’s this well-developed setting that keeps the reader engaged for the first few chapters of the book where the characters aren’t yet developed and the story is not clear-cut. After a little while, however, the story becomes clear and thereafter the novel is consuming and very difficult to put down. While the characters never become completely likable, they are intriguing enough that the reader can connect with them regardless. Overall, Hokey Pokey is a thrilling and engaging read, and yet another testament to the writing prowess of this author.
[Review to appear in Style magazine Toowoomba, May 2023 edition]

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This wasn't what I was expecting from reading the blurb, I was anticipating a thriller/murder mystery but what I got was a supernatural horror book (think shape shifters/vampires), which is great as I love that genre! but maybe the description could be clearer. This book is bizzare in the best way, I thought it was utterly unique and I fell in love with the characters, the prose was beautiful and I 100% want to read more by this author! Thankyou so much to netgalley for the eARC

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Well that was a roller coaster of a book. It started out as quite an ordinary sort of murder mystery and I was getting to the point of getting quite bored, wondering whether I was going to be ploughing through the last two thirds.

Then we fell off a cliff in Part 2 into somewhere extremely dark, dangerous and so much more engaging. I zipped through pretty much all of the rest of the book.

I understand we were scene setting in the first third and it was necessary but I wasn't engaged, which is partly why I knocked a star off. I was also a tiny bit disappointed in the end of the book which felt just a bit rushed.

Other than that I enjoyed the supernatural aspects and the character of Nora was very intriguing. I'd definitely recommend this book.

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.

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I very much enjoyed this puzzle of a book. Right from the beginning there are signs that something isn’t quite what it seems in this story. The author set a strange, creepy and ominous atmosphere that had me questioning what was real and what was really happening. I found myself taking nothing at face value, instead highlighting and theorising about the text to an extent I normally don’t. I also appreciated the feminist undertones and the queer romance. This is definitely horror, but not the gory and scary variety (although there definitely is some of that too) rather it’s a psychological and intellectual type of horror. If you enjoy gothic horror stories with supernatural elements and puzzling mysteries you might enjoy this book too!

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Hokey Pokey is a very hard to review without spoilers book! It took me a while to get into the swing of it, as I honestly didn’t know what kind of book I was reading, or even what genre the book was, for the first half.

Hoke Pokey seems like a normal read, a bit quirky, until you turn the page and something utterly bizarre happens that completely throws you off.

However, this isn’t necessarily a complaint as once I realised I just need to go with the flow with it, I started thoroughly enjoying it!

A short but sweet review because I truly can’t talk much without giving it away, but if you like dark, creepy, and slightly disturbing reads, Hokey Pokey is for you.

I rated Hokey Pokey 3.5/5⭐️

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I fear any review is going to be quite spoiler-y for this book. We have a 1920s grand hotel cut off by snow, a famous opera singer being watched by a psychoanalyst with a mysterious remit and an even more mysterious past, disturbing recollections that may or not be fantasy…

From the cover I thought this could be a classic mystery, but it’s much more than that. Mystery, suspense, even horror at times. Imaginative and rather surprising, even shocking, at times.

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If you read stories for the plot, for the twists and turns and human psychology, if you don't care about liking your main characters but rather prefer them to be interesting, if you enjoy your fantasy with an extra layer of darkness, then this is a book for you.
I was attracted by the cover, intrigued by the blurb and hocked by the end of the first page. This is a very neat book and I will definitely look at the other work from the author. That said, I really didn't like any of the characters, which is something that usually bothers me quite a bit and will make me stop reading. Writing style and great plotting become the center of the story when characters cannot be relied upon to keep you hocked, and this novel delivered. I wanted to see where it all lead, and why, and how, those atrocious people has been created.
The flashbacks were perfect and the unraveling of the plot was masterfully done. Of course I would have preferred to like someone in the book, and I was freshly reminded of why I hate psychoanalysis so much, but this was done with gusto. If you loved "Let the Right One in" do try Hokey Pokey.

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I was excited to read this book because I really loved the last Kate Mascarenhas book I read and I was surprised and impressed by how different the whole feel of Hokey Pokey was to The Thief on the Winged Horse.

I don’t read very much horror, despite being a fan of speculative fiction in general (a grouping that includes horror, fantasy and sci fi, to my understanding); but I thoroughly enjoyed Hokey Pokey and the near paranoia it inspired while I was reading it. By about two-thirds of the way through the book I was convinced the hotel was crawling with murderous monsters, and the way things tied up satisfactorily without leaving loose ends or seeming overly convenient was impressive. Some of the twists were expected, but no less interesting or horrifying for that.

I liked the vintage feel of the setting and world, and the classic literature elements of being snowed in, relying on long-distance trains and expensive, not entirely reliable telephone service added nicely to the feeling of isolation and suspense. The cover nicely captures the vintage feel of movie posters, or perhaps more appropriately opera posters, although I wished the supernatural horror themes were represented too.

Nora is a fascinating main character, and I loved the way she did thoroughly unsympathetic things at times. The way sexism is examined through her relationships with the hotel staff, other guests, past lovers, her parents and especially Berenice is excellent. The representation of queer people in different time periods is always appreciated, though I do wish Berenice as a bisexual people didn’t also play into the negative stereotype of bisexual people being cheating nymphomaniacs.

The non-linear plot really helped to make this story what it was, and I especially enjoyed slowly learning about Nora’s parents and past. The creeping dread and fairytale feel of her childhood in the woods, contrasted with the stiff formality of her life as an adult practicing medicine was fantastic. I love a strong, haunting ending to a novel as well, and there are definitely some eerie things still happening, even with the happy (if gory) ending that wraps up most of the mystery elements.

Overall, Hokey Pokey was a fantastic read that I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys classic horror or ghost stories, or modern mysteries and haunting tales but with a novel setting. I think this book would be good for anyone who enjoys Anne Bishop’s World of the Others novels (Lake Silence, Wild Country and Crowbones); Charlie N Holmberg's The Will and the Wilds, VE Schwab’s Near Witch, or classics like Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot novels, or Dracula by Bram Stoker.

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I think it's important to start this review by saying this book was a lot darker than I was anticipating and I would have liked the blurb to have detailed this a little more. I think some readers may be surprised by the content as both the cover and blurb give a very different feel to the vibe of this book.

That being said, I did enjoy this book overall, though it's very different to my standard reads. It's an interesting psychological thriller with a very atmospheric feeling from the outset and will suit those who enjoy dark, supernatural stories. I didn't feel there was a huge amount of depth to the overall story and plotline, but this may have been because this genre feels a little out of my normal comfort zone.

A good read but be aware, the blurb gives little indication of this novels darkness!

Thank you to Netgalley, Kate Mascarenhas and the publishers for this advanced readers copy.

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Nora Dickinson is sent by Leo to follow his wife Berenice from Zurich to Birmingham in February 1929. He believes she is having an affair but wants proof.

The scene is set but once snow causes phone lines to go down and transport stop running, strange things start happening at the hotel and people start disappearing.

Very good characters with twists 6th could not have expected. Not everyone is as they se3m and danger and death are on the loose. Really enjoyed.

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This was a great read with a terrible blurb! It doesn't give an accurate depiction of the majesty of this read and the complexities enclosed. I loved the setting and the characters and found it to be really engaging with brilliant world building.

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Hokey Pokey

Thanks to NetGalley and Head of Zeus for the arc.

Welcome to the Regant Hotel Nora Dickinson, a psychoanalyst, has booked into Birmingham's The Regent Hotel in February 1929.
She is observing and reporting on the movements of a famous opera singer.
However, when a storm forces the hotel to close its doors, Nora is forced to confront her secrets.
At times, there is mystery, suspense, and even horror. Imaginative and occasionally surprising, even shocking.The flashbacks were flawless, and the narrative unravelling was flawless. Of course, I would have loved to like someone in the book, and I was reminded once again why I despise psychoanalysis, but this was done with enthusiasm. If you liked "Let the Right One In," you should check out Hokey Pokey.

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This took me by surprise. I thought it was going to be a jazz age 'jolly good' mystery, folk trapped by a snowstorm with bodies appearing here and there, but it goes off in an altogether weirder direction, involving a shapeshifting monster and a horrific psychoanalyst. Enjoyable, but different.

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Hokey Pokey is a dark and unnerving horror novel that packs a genuine thrill factor and an engrossing storyline. I found myself, at first, liking our protagonist and her undercover persona, however we quickly learn that there is a lot more to Nora than meets the eye. Full of gory twists and turns, this book blends fantasy and historical fact to create a stunning portrait of hotel life.

I also found this vaguely reminiscent of the pandemic and lockdown, with everyone being stuck in the hotel due to the storm, raising questions about how human nature fares under pressure, and how madness can ensue when people are forced into confined spaces and restricted of the freedom to wander.

I read this whole book in once sitting and this just goes to show how enthralled I was. I have read previous novels by Kate Mascarenhas and whilst continuing her brilliance at blending realism and not-so-realism, this is a very different vibe from those I have read before and I have to conclude that this was an extremely brilliant venture into the world of horror writing.

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He was paying her to spy, but he must realise that, more than the money, Nora wanted to hear she was indistinguishable from the Icon. I've missed you being her. It was a victory to hear him say it. It made her want to cry. [loc. 401]
On a cold night in February 1929, Nora Čapek checks into the Regent Hotel in Birmingham under a pseudonym. She's there to follow opera singer Berenice Oxbow, who's married to Nora's fellow psychoanalyst Leo Cadieux, and report back to Leo. Nora has a unique gift: she recalls everything she hears, and can repeat every word she's ever heard, verbatim, in the style it was first spoken. "Because of this she saw herself as truthful." But she has a number of secrets to conceal, not least her own nature. On the other hand, Leo has convinced her that her memories of an unsettling childhood in an English forest, some time before the First World War, cannot possibly be real. They are, he asserts, fantasies rooted in her difficult relationship with her mother. Only gradually do we discover that Leo is wrong, and that Nora's 'fantasies' are the key to her nature.

Nora's not the only one with secrets. A fellow guest, Arthur Crouch, has lived in the hotel for years, claims to know every inch of the building, and says there's a well in the cellar that will bestow forgiveness on any who drinks from it. He seems to know a great deal about the staff, too. And Berenice draws all eyes to herself on her first night in the hotel, when she seems to go into a trance and declares that 'a lady with flowers tattooed on her forearm' is in terrible danger. When she's escorted from the dining hall, Nora returns to her own room to apply panstick to her distinguishing mark, a tattoo of a chrysanthemum surrounded by little pink dots, like nettle rash. It's worth noting that Hokey Pokey, in this instance, is the name of a cocktail made from absinthe and stinging nettles (recipe provided). Arthur treats Nora to several of these.

The shifting relationships between Nora and Arthur, and Nora and Berenice, begin to feel even more claustrophobic when trains to and from the city are cancelled due to a freak snowstorm. And Nora's goal metamorphoses, from listening to -- and 'recording' -- every word Berenice says (or sings), to a desire to know Berenice for herself.

This was an original, and extremely atmospheric, horror novel: beautifully written with considerable psychological depth, and revealing its secrets with tantalising langour. It's a love story, a story of professional rivalry, a tale of the supernatural: I liked it very much.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the advance review copy, in exchange for this full honest review. UK publication date is 8th June 2023.

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This is a surprising read you start off thinking it is a detective story trying to find out if a famous wife is involved in adulterous behaviour but it is much more than that.
A dark fantasy novel with a surprising conclusion.

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Nora enters a Birmingham hotel with a clear goal but events from Nora's past start to bleed into the present when a blizzard descends.

This is a fearless novel, it does not shy away from taking characters down paths you don't expect and embracing the strange.

Really enjoyable.

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Hokey Pokey might be the first book I've read set in 1920s Europe, or atleast that I can recall.
Mascarenhas does a superb job of setting the scene, everything from architecture to dinner felt thematically perfect. Described in enough detail to picture the moment and maintaining the story pace without unnecessary verbiage, I'm pleased to have encountered this author.

I absolutely hated Oxbow which was obviously the authors intent. I physically recoiled in disgust on several occasions, so well written was this arrogant, pompous character.
For the better half of Hokey Pokey I was not a fan of the main character Nora either, her cold outlook was at odds with her motives and it wasn't until her entire history had unfolded that I found a reason to root for her.

Instead I was engulfed with the mystery of the vanishing Hotel guests, possible ghost sightings and lore of the 'Hyring'. I'd not heard of such a creature before and an (admittedly not extensive) internet search leads me to believe this is a fantasy of Mascarenhas creation. If so kudos, I very much enjoyed it and recommend you read Hokey Pokey if not only for this.

It was interesting to read from a woman's perspective in 20s Europe where the cultural etiquette strictly forbade women from drinking alone or travelling without business priorities or escort companions.

I will forgive Mascarenhas the one clumsy reveal- a cheap plot tie that left me somewhat disgruntled, for the majority of Hokey Pokey was intriguing and the ending vindicated my reaction to the collection of bad seeds comprising the characters.

There is unexpectedly grim body horror to be found in this novel, scoring extra points for an altogether fun read

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This is a wonderfully clever story that starts out as a fairly run of the mill mystery set in a 1920s hotel but it soon develops in to something, very, very unexpected. A fun read with original ideas and great characters.

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(review contains spoilers)
I went into this book pretty blind purely on the basis of having loved 'The Psychology of Time Travel. Even if I'd studied the blurb though, there's no way it could have prepared my expectations.

The author's writing style is once again a perfect balance of easy to read and lush with detail letting you paint a picture of the strange Birmingham hotel and the guests within.

I loved being tricked by the early unreliable narration of Nora and where it all led as the book suddenly changed pace and tone when the truth was revealed to the reader. Even then I was doubting what was real and what was delusion. The ending left me with a smile as Nora found her true self and wasn't afraid to ask for what she wanted anymore. The 'monster' wins in a way but so she should!

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Hokey Pokey by Kate Mascarenhas
Publication date: 8 June 2023
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars
Thank you to NetGalley and Head of Zeus for providing me with an e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
February, 1929. The Regent Hotel in Birmingham is a place of deception and glamour. A psychoanalyst checks in under a pseudonym: Nora Dickinson. Though she doesn't see herself as a liar, she is following the famous opera singer, Berenice Oxbow, to spy on her. But when a terrible snow storm isolates the hotel – and its guests – from the outside world, the lines between nightmare and reality begin to blur...
I was expecting murder mystery in an isolated hotel. Instead, I got gory and bloody supernatural horror... It took me by surprise but I can't say I minded!
All of the main characters are unpleasant, selfish and of dubious morality, which I loved. The writing was really evocative and I loved the hotel setting, with secrets behind every door. It felt creepy, claustrophobic and dark.
But there is another timeline when we flash back to Nora's childhood and early adulthood, where we come to understand how she became who - and what - she is now. I wish there had been more development of the lore and background to flesh out the supernatural elements of this book.
And I also wish the pacing had been better balanced, because the ending felt a little bit rushed.
But all in all, I had a great time reading this and I flew through it. I'd already read The Psychology of Time Travel from this author and I'm looking forward to picking more of her books.

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Thanks to Netgalley and Head of Zeus for the e- ARC.

This books starts as a murder mystery/thriller as we follow Nora Dickinson, young psychoanalyst, sent on spying the famous opera singer Berenice Oxbow. Well the beginning was quite slow, I was confused at some point what I am actually reading. Then we came to part, which is about the childhood of our main character and oh man I was hooked. I could not stop reading.
This twisty story made me surprised at the end. It was really unique and interesting read.
4 stars from me, it would be 5 if the beginning would not be that slow

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When Nora Dickinson checks in to the Regent Hotel in Birmingham in 1929, she is planning to spend her short stay following the reknowned operah singer Berenice Oxbow. Berenice's husband has asked Nora to do this for him as he believes she may be cheating on him. When a snowstorm hits and cuts the hotel off from the outside world, Nora's stay becomes very different. Forced to face her past and who she really is, Nora's story takes a dark and disturbing turn.

It's taken me a few days to process this and try to figure out what I want to say - it's a hard book to review! I've seen a few reviews commenting that the blurb doesn't really paint the most accurate picture of the genre and content of the book, and whilst I can see what people are saying, both of Kate Mascarenhas previous books have had a supernatural/fantasy like element to them, so it shouldn't be a huge surprise to see that again here.

I was definitely drawn in to this one. It was really strange book to read, because on one hand I didn't feel particularly enamoured of any of the main characters, but on the other hand trying to figure out what was real and what wasn't had me hooked.

It's clear from very early in the book that Nora is a troubled young woman. She is the epitome of an unreliable narrator, but acknowledges this at stages in the book, and begins to doubt herself. Her actions and the way she treats peole don't endear her to a reader, but you at the same time you understand that her behaviours are the result of her troubled mind and so can make allowances for her. Berenice was also not particularly endearing, however I did appreciate her determination to live her life her way.

Plot wise this one is more of a slow burn than an action packed ride. It's not really a murder mystery, but more focuses on Nora's journey to rediscover her inner self. I think her struggles to disover for herself what was real and what was her mind is what makes the book.

As with her previous books, Mascerenhas' writing is exeptional here. There is a lot of description and detail embedded in to the story, but not in such a way that it over powers the story itself.

A very enjoyable read, and I think anyone who has enjoyed Kate Mascarenhas' earlier books will definitely appreciate this one too.

Thanks to NetGalley and Head of Zeus for an arc in exchange for an honest review.

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'Hokey Pokey' follows Nora, a psychoanalyst who is on a secret mission. She checks into the Regent Hotel, Birmingham, in 1929 to follow a famous opera singer and hopefully find evidence of her infidelity. However, when a snow storm floods the streets of Birmingham, cutting the hotel off from the world, and another guest goes missing, Nora's agenda begins to change. Will she be able to stay focused on the reason she is there or is her past going to catch up with her before she can complete her mission?
As you might know from my other reviews, book set in the 1920s are absolutely my bag. The parts of this novel set in the hotel, with jazzy scenery, costumes and cocktails galore, were my favourite bits by far. This was where the writing really dazzled in my opinion! The flashback sections - which actually take up a large amount of the story - were less compelling to me, but essential to understanding the development of Nora's character, so I think Mascarenhas struck a decent balance there.
The story itself took some very unexpected turns. After a while, it became obvious there was more to this mystery - something darker and more supernatural. Now, while that's no bad thing, it's not even hinted at in the blurb! If you were reading this based on the blurb, probably hoping for an eerie mystery set in a hotel in the 1920s, you could fine yourself confused, shocked and maybe even a little disappointed. Luckily, I didn’t mind the change in direction!
All in all, superb 1920s imagery and plot-twists galore!

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Birmingham, 1929. Welcome to the luxurious Regent Hotel, where guests can dine on sumptuous cuisine, sip absinthe in the glamorous cocktail bar, and have their every need catered to by an army of discrete and smartly dressed attendants. While the facade of the uber-stylish Regent may seem highly respectable, this is a place of contradictions, much like its clientele. For some, rules can be bent to accommodate more lascivious tastes, and misdemeanours can be overlooked, if the guests are wealthy enough - or know how to trade in secrets.

As a winter storm closes in, psychoanalyst Dr Nora Dickinson checks in. Her secret mission is to spy on Berenice Oxbow, the famous opera singer from Zurich, on behalf of her psychiatrist husband, but Nora's motives are clouded. When the hotel gets cut off from the outside world in a mighty blizzard, the evil that stalks the corridors of the Regent comes out to play, and Nora might just be the only one that can stem the tide of murder and mayhem that threatens to disrupt her plans.

Hokey Pokey is the third glorious novel from Kate Mascarenhas, and it offers an intriguing extension of the themes she has explored in her earlier books, The Psychology of Time Travel and The Thief on the Winged Horse.

In many ways this is a classic locked room mystery, which Nora finds herself bound to solve when murder raises its ugly head, but this is not your normal golden age crime story. The setting of the Regent Hotel may be straight out of the 1920s, with deliciously described sights sounds and smells that conjure up the delights of the era for your sensuous pleasure, right down to the absinthe laden cocktails available in the bar - but here there be monsters.

Drawing on fable and folklore, Mascarenhas blurs the lines between reality and imagination, moving between events at the Regent, Nora's childhood in the woods of Alspeth, and her life in Zurich. She brings alive visions from your nightmares in true horror fashion, but she incorporates psychoanalytical aspects of the motivations and experiences of the characters too, so you can never be quite sure how much of the story is intended to be taken literally, or metaphsyically - until the truth becomes shockingly clear.

There is a veritable feast of themes running throughout this novel, and Mascarenhas weaves them through compelling scenes thrumming with taut emotion, passion, suspicion, and violence. Identity, control, power and desire are deftly explored; notions of illusion and mimicry are used to perfection; and there are recurring motifs that beautifully link all the parts of the story together. Nora's evolution across the novel, as she comes to understand herself, and what is going on around her, is spellbinding.

I am a big fan of Mascarenhas' writing, especially when it comes to her female characters. I have loved all her novels, and Hokey Pokey is my favourite one yet. I am already craving more.

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This was such an interesting read! I found myself so engrossed in the story, the characters had such incredible arcs, and I can't wait to follow this author's journey!

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Another brilliant book from Mascarenhas, this really didn't dissapoint. Eerie and creepy, you never know what's truly going on and what is happening in the characters' minds!

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Hokey Pokey by Kate Mascarenhas
Set in the 1920's Nora arrives at The Regent Hotel, Birmingham. She has been sent to spy on opera singer Berenice Oxbow but things are not as they seem & soon a guest goes missing.
I loved the descriptive setting and first half of the book more than the macabre supernatural ending (personal choice not a fault of the writing!)

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It's February 1929 and a snowstorm descends on Birmingham. All the railway lines are blocked and a disparate group of guests is stranded in the city centre Regent Hotel. Among them are psychoanalysts Nora Dickinson and renowned operatic diva Berenice "The Icon" Oxbow. Is their presence wholly random, or do the two women have some connection...?

I love novels with a strong location and well depicted setting - as here (the book even comes with plans of the hotel). They allow one to sink into the routines and conventions of the location, and watch the characters run, as it were, though the mazes of the author's invention. Having the protagonists isolated from their normal lives, caught briefly out of time, as it were, adds to the pleasure which here is enhanced by the jousting between Nora and Berenice, and by Nora's startling ability at mimicry - basically if she hears something once, she can repeat it exactly forever. That ability, and the idea of mimicry and of truth, are at the centre of this thought-provoking and satisfyingly complex story - as much as the series of gruesome killings that begins to occur...

An icon is, of course, a depiction of a saint or of God, but one that is held to be more than just an image. Beronice is named for Veronica, who mopped Jesus' tears, obtaining a true icon of the deity. Nora can reproduce life to a startling degree, and, as we find out when we learn the two women's stories, both have history that is entangled with deception, imitation and untruth (the cataclysmic event of Nora's childhood encapsulating this). And it's all taking place in the glittering, mirrored splendour of a hotel, an unreal place with its own contradictions: between the guests' accommodation and the back stairs (the map shows both the guest and staff sides), between the lives of the guests and those of the staff, between the guests' everyday life and their hotel existence. There are of course many secrets to come out, but before they do, they shape events here like invisible plumbing behind ornate walls.

The sense of a charade taking place, of everything being one step away from tumbling down to reveal what is really going on, is intensified by the two womens' positions seeming so shaky. Berenice is accepted and acclaimed because of her voice, which may however fail at any time (it has before). Nora is a woman in a profession dominated by powerful, manipulative men and - as Mascarenhas makes clear - even her presence in the hotel, as a woman alone, is on sufferance (she isn't allowed in the cocktail lounge unaccompanied, for example).

It is a bewildering, intoxicating novel, just as much so, I'd guess, as one of those Hokey Pokey cocktails (recipe helpfully provided) which Nora so much enjoys. With a real taste for time and place and more than a twist of the gothic, this is a book to savour.

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