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3.56  ·  Rating details ·  1,102 ratings  ·  267 reviews
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 survivin
Paperback, 365 pages
Published July 1st 2014 by Allen & Unwin (first published June 25th 2014)
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Average rating 3.56  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,102 ratings  ·  267 reviews

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Mar 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
I always find interesting to hear about the ideas behind stories. In a recent Big Idea essay, Justine Larbalestier talks about how Razorhurst starts with a place, rather than with a character’s voice like her previous novels. The story goes that, upon learning that her gentrified Sydney neighbourhood of Surry Hills was home to slums, violent gangs, brothels and shady business ran by crime ladies back in the 20s and 30s, she was moved to learn more about its past and that road led down to Razorhu ...more

Arc provided by Soho Teen through Edelweiss
Release Date: March 3rd

An atmospheric tale set in Sydney during the thirties.
A period fertile in gang wars, and consequent fights for power.

Confession time: This rating is more representative of the book merits, than my actual appreciation of it.

There's nothing wrong with it: It has a crisp writing, believable characters _ well, at least the ones that are alive _ a good portrait of a time and period. It taught me things I had never heard about.
3.5 stars. Okay, let's start with the classification. I'm not sure I can call this a YA book in good conscience, even though I've shelved it as such. My usual rule of "What's the protagonist's age?" would class it as YA, but the fact that one of our two main characters is sixteen and also the classiest prostitute in Sydney complicates things somewhat...


Razorhurst is set in 1930s Sydney. In case you're unaware of the history, handguns were banned in Australia at the time because of a ris
This high-stakes, fast-paced historical fantasy set in 1932 Sydney is a bloody and wild ride. Told through the voices of Kelpie and Dymphna, it's a story of survival in a mob-run land, where there's a power battle between two leaders seeking for total control of Razorhurst. But more than being that, this is also a story about social class, about status, about allegiances, dependence, reliability, and more.

And if that weren't enough, this book features ghosts. Maybe "features" is the wrong word.
Apr 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Originally posted at

I received this book from the publishers for review in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts in the review below are mine.

I think I should begin this review by mentioning how excited I was for the release of Razorhurst. I happened to find it randomly on Goodreads one day and I cannot even begin to explain my feelings. I think I even fangirled to my mum about it and said something like ‘it’s a 1930’s, Underbelly-ish, ghost story f
Sep 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
There is a lot to enjoy about this book, and I particularly like the ghosts, but I felt a little let down overall. For me, the pacing was a bit off, and some of the characterisation wasn't completely consistent in my eyes. In the end though, I simply wondered what the purpose of the story was. Not every novel needs to end happily, not every novel needs to end with a bang, but for me, this one kind of went out with a whimper, and I was a little disappointed in the payoff. I also had a bit of a pr ...more
Feb 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Not sure how to review this, in fact have avoided doing so for over a week. It's not that I didn't enjoy the book, but the style evoked such strong echoes of both Kylie Tennant & Ruth Park (credited by the author) as to feel derivative. But the story has stayed with me, even though I didn't enjoy all the chopping back and forth and repetition of events thru different character's 'eyes'. Can't help feeling it lacks something, in the end. ...more
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out

Justine Larbalaestier's Razorhurst is gritty, intriguing novel blending history and the paranormal to create an interesting and exciting story with crossover appeal for both young adult and adult audiences.

It's 1932 and the tentative truce between Sydney's rival underworld gangs, headed by Gloriana Nelson and Mr Davidson, is on the verge of collapse when Gloriana's right hand man, Jimmy Palmer is murdered in his bed.
For Dymphna, Gloria's 'best girl' and Jimmy's girlfriend, Jimmy's death is a pr
Jun 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing

O0o0o0o this was awesome.

1932 in Australia was a dramatic time. The Harbour Bridge was officially opened, the Great Depression had destroyed lives across the country, and unemployment had reached a peak of 30%. Razors had replaced guns as weapons for gangsters and Sydney was ruled by razor-gangs.

It’s against this colourful and dangerous backdrop that we meet Kelpie, a homeless orphan girl looking for apples. She finds Dymphna, Gloriana ‘Glory’ Nelson’s ‘best girl’, next to the body of her m
Mar 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book was actually really surprising. I didn't know much about the time, I didn't know much about the story, but I feel like that's a good way to go into it.

Razor Hurst is a very interesting book and a very thrilling book. It is set in 1932 Sydney, during the Razor Gang Wars. I felt that the author did a fantastic job at creating the setting. It definitely had the 1930s Sydney vibe, in both the social dialogue between characters and the actions of characters.

This book is a dual POV book an
May 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
At first, I had a hard time getting into this book and I'm not sure why. I ended up reading the whole thing. In fact, I finished last night and had dreams about the characters all night long. So, I guess it's safe to say that this is the kind of book that gets under your skin. I do wonder why Larbalestier bothered adding a spec fic element, though. The ghosts are very present, persistent, even, but they could have been removed from the story and the plot could have stayed mostly the same. That b ...more
Hard to see this as a YA novel. The writing suits the genre but a theme of underage prostitution, backyard abortions and some murderers could be classed as good need some maturity but maybe I am showing my age.

There is a lot to like. Sydney 1932 and all of its evils covering gang wars, prostitution, drugs, corruption and the lack of sanitation and running water for the poor. Life during the depression, difficulties faced by returned (and damaged) soldiers and the lack of social services are also
This and similar reviews can be found at Thoughts By J!

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Razorhurst is a historical crime novel written for the YA crowd. Set in 1932 Sydney, it follows two protagonists who have the ability to see ghosts. Kelpie is a young street urchin who was enticed to enter a house in Surry Hills by a ghost, who had promised she would find apples to eat. What she found was lots and lots of red ... but no apples. Kelpie instead stumbles upon Gloriana 'Glory' Nelson's number one razorman with his throat s

May 07, 2021 rated it liked it
Weird ghost story. Not what I was expecting.
Tsana Dolichva
Jul 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier is a YA historical fantasy set in Sydney in the 1930s. I have to admit, I didn't know very much about Sydney in the 1930s until I read this book but it certainly seems like it was an interesting period.

Razorhurst follows two main characters, both of whom can see ghosts: Kelpie, a street urchin and Dymphna, the most expensive prostitute in the city. Kelpie has survived on the streets in large part thanks to some ghost who have taken her under their wings, helped
Feb 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mon avis en Français

My English review

I’m always drawn to novels featuring ghosts and this one was no exception. It must be said that the cover was fun and I was curious to see how the story would be.

First of all I must say that I was surprised to see the format that the author has chosen to present with this volume. Indeed in the story we follow Dymphna Campbell and Kelpie two young different women but who find themselves together with their ability to see ghosts. Each chapter is from the point
DNF halfway through the book. I liked the setting and the basic idea of the story, but the storytelling was kinda choppy and I didn't really connect with the characters. In the end I just wasn't interested enough to finish it. ...more
Kara Babcock
I love that truth—in this case, history—is often stranger than fiction. Take Razorhurst. The year 1932, and in a run down section of Sydney, Australia, gangs of men rove the streets, scarring each other with razor blades.

Cool alternate history, right? Wrong. That’s true facts. Justine Larbalestier might have created some composite characters based on real people from that era, but the setting is real. These razor gangs of Surry Hills were real. That’s pretty cool. I knew my Aussie friends were d
Angela Savage
Jul 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
It’s a long time since reading a novel has made me gasp out loud, but it happened with Justine Larbalestier’s Razorhurst, a gripping, bloody, at times heartbreaking novel, set in Sydney’s inner east in 1932.

The term ‘Razorhurst’, as Larbalestier notes in the ‘Acknowledgements & Influences’ section at the end of the book, was coined and deployed by journalists at the whimsically named Truth newspaper, to describe a culture as much as a place in 1920s and ’30s Sydney, where razor-wielding crimin
Sydney's deadly Razorhurst neighborhood, 1932. Gloriana Nelson and Mr. Davidson, two ruthless mob bosses, have reached a fragile peace—one maintained by "razor men." Kelpie, orphaned and homeless, is blessed (and cursed) with the ability to see Razorhurst's many ghosts. They tell her secrets the living can't know about the cracks already forming in the mobs' truce. Then Kelpie meets Dymphna Campbell, a legendary beauty and prized moll of Gloriana Nelson. She's earned the nickname "Angel of Death ...more
Dymphna’s beauty makes her the prized possession and money earner in Gloriana Nelson’s brothel. Yet her beauty also means that men want to own her and are prepared to go to any lengths to have her that includes murder.
When Dymphna finds latest beau Jimmy Palmer with his throat slit and the police banging on the door and finding an exit is not looking good. Kelpie having been tricked by a ghost to enter the house Palmer is in is surprised to find an extremely beautiful woman standing over the bo
1932, Sydney: the Australian government has outlawed guns, so gangsters have perfected the art of killing with razors. The most dangerous part of town, Razorhurst, is home to two rival gangs known for their ruthlessness.
Kelpie has been living on the streets for years. How many, she's not sure. She doesn't even know how old she is nor does she know her parents. She was raised by Old Ma until Old Ma died. Then Kelpie was raised by Old Ma's ghost. Now, Kelpie knows enough not to trust every ghost
Kelly (Diva Booknerd)
Mar 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: allen-unwin, loveozya
3½ Stars.

Razorhurst was sassy, sultry and a brilliant take on gangland warfare with a paranormal twist. Keplie, named after the likeness to being a wild pup, is a phenomenal young lady, her life has been little more than tragedy and destitution but yet she's tough, feisty and isn't afraid to go down swinging. She and Snowie were raised by a woman known as Old Ma, who would tell Kelpie the story of how her parents died before being able to name her. It was
Eugenia (Genie In A Book)
*This review also appears on the blog Chasm of Books*

4.5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Set in 1930's Sydney, Razorhurst is a piece of YA historical fiction that doesn't shy away from the gritty mob warfare and criminal undercurrents of the time. As a big fan of the genre already, I was definitely impressed with Justine Larbalestier when she delivered something so impressive. Full of dynamic characters and a plot which delves into mystery w
Apr 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It was obvious to me from the very beginning of Razorhurst that this was a story built by extensive research and gifted world building. I can’t think of a book that has sucked me into its pages in quite the same way that Razorhurst did. Not only does it have all of the blood-soaked, brutal features of a mob story, it ha the added bonus of ghosts. Of course, our two heroines can see the ghosts, and the way that the spirits speak to them and try to get their attention was both eerie and fascinatin ...more
It was a last minute’s decision to attend the book launch for Razorhurst though it was such a enjoyable night listening to Justine Larbalestier talk about the inspiration behind this book and the research into the historical background of this novel. Her passion, not only for writing but also for this dark-piece of Aussie history, was easily felt and very contagious. I dived into this brilliant novel with a very high expectation.

I expected ghosts. I expected tough characters. But what I didn’t e
Apr 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
My daughter was given this book to review and has done so for the publisher. It was then passed along to me since I like true and historical crime and while this is fiction rather than true crime she raved about it so much I had to read it myself.

Historically accurate to the time it was set during the razor gang era and certainly the characters were well formed and researched you could easily picture yourself in the late 1920's early 1930's with this group of people operating it was like a YA ve
May 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fantasy novel that did not need the fantasy and a horror novel that was not horrific in the traditional sense. This novel was about a day in the life of 1930's Australia, rife with gangsters and the violent lives these women (and men) lead. The supernatural aspects of the novel deal with the two major characters ability to see ghosts. Kelpie,the first main character, is a young orphan who has lived on the street raised by ghosts that she feels she is the only one who can see. The seco ...more
Jun 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
What I Thought: Razorhurst is fast, thrilling, dark and dangerous, and it will leave you wanting more than just the one book.
Razorhurst is about gangs and life in an Australian town in the 1930's. It follows the POV's of two girls - Kelpie and Dymphna. Kelpie is a a dirty, malnourished girl who lives on the streets, and can see ghosts. Dymphna is a gorgeous girl who lives a lavish life, and who can also see ghosts. They come together by fate, over a dead body, each already knowing who the other
Dylan Marshall
Jul 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Historical thrillers and the supernatural collide in this gritty and engaging novel written by CBCA shortlisted author Justine Larbalestier. Set in 1932 the book forms a genuine sense of the time and place, creating a realistic and engaging experience.

The story follows two contrasting characters; Kelpie and Dymphna, as they try and survive the harsh streets after finding the dead body of Dymphna’s latest boyfriend. With two mob bosses fighting to take control of Razorhurst things quickly get out
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Justine Larbalestier is an Australian young-adult fiction author. She is best known for the Magic or Madness trilogy: Magic or Madness, Magic Lessons and the newly released Magic's Child. She also wrote one adult non-fiction book, the Hugo-nominated The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction (Best Related Book, 2003), and edited another, Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentiet ...more

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