The Anglekeeper by Alee Karim

— Melissa Mesku

His blood now commingles with the charred dirt as he traces the third sigil. A humming rises from the ground.

The absence of Stranger Things is being felt this Halloween, but The Anglekeeper by Alee Karim has kept me good company. Set in 1980s Southern California, the backdrop provides a nostalgic pre-millenial noir: Stüssy shirts, pre-Algebra, Topanga Canyon, and “a time when things—and people—could occasionally slip through the cracks in that way.” It’s the perfect setting to artfully rip apart with the paranormal. When eleven year old Omar finds an alloyed object in a tiny smoldering pit, we are thrust into a series of close encounters with another world. The effect is all the more discomfiting as the transitions between normal reality and some alternate version are so well crafted as to be almost imperceptible. Perhaps most unsettling is the mental landscape. The interiority of otherwise simple characters often reveals a chilling depth (“She consciously accepts his suggestion, not unlike watching yourself lock your keys in your car, that sliver of volition with which you might reverse the process somehow unavailable to you”).

The suspense is held between moments of relief as the setting switches back to the traffic and tract homes of sunny California. But a dark otherworld hangs over the Valley, as opaque and ubiquitous as smog. As one of the most underrated novels I’ve read, The Anglekeeper is cinematic in scope and sensibility. Equal parts intelligent and comedic, the fact is has not yet been picked up as a movie is perhaps the strangest thing about it.