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Hugo Contreras is a babaláwo, sent by his boss, Lourdes, to banish spirits and cleanse homes around Miami. He’s never actually believed in any of this nonsense, but it pays and sometimes people seem happy afterward. Struggling with the recent loss of his wife, Meli, and the weight of staggering medical debt, Hugo is haunted by his own past. When debt collection attorney Alexi Ramirez comes calling, asking Hugo to cleanse his house in exchange for clearing Hugo’s debt, Hugo can’t say no. Despite his innate skepticism, however, Hugo finds that this haunting is far too real and holds connections to his past. As Christmas draws near, Hugo is given three days to exorcise the spirits while making sure he doesn’t become a victim himself. Palma has created a rich and textured world, with the actual Miami that Hugo and Alexi inhabit touching the mystical world while remaining all too real. Metaphors that would be heavy-handed in another writer’s hands, Palma deploys with ease, swirling together ghosts, debt, colonialism, and guilt to create something greater. What happened to Meli is slowly unraveled until everything comes together at the very end in a triumph of pacing. Although Alexi is almost cartoonishly evil at times, he rings true enough to the stereotype of a rich man who is constantly justifying to himself what he’s done. Split into five sections, this novel is a quick read only because it’s so hard to put down; each passage is well written and propels the plot forward just enough to keep readers intrigued.


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