Mickie Lambert creates 'digital scrapbooks' for clients, ensuring that precious souvenirs aren't forgotten or lost. When her latest client, Nadia Denham, a curio shop owner, dies from an apparent suicide, Mickie honors the old woman's last wish and begins curating her peculiar objets d'art. A music box, a hair clip, a key chain--twelve mementos in all that must have meant so much to Nadia, who collected them on her flea market scavenges across the country. But these tokens mean a lot to someone else, too. Mickie has been receiving threatening messages to leave Nadia's past alone. It's becoming a mystery Mickie is driven to solve. Who once owned these odd treasures? How did Nadia really come to possess them? Discovering the truth means crossing paths with a long-dormant serial killer and navigating the secrets of a sinister past. One that might, Mickie fears, be inescapably entwined with her own.
Loved, nurtured and protected — as well as intelligent, impetuous, and nosy as hell, Mickie Lambert is the kind of brave and carefree Black girl we don't often see on the page or screen. She's the Black girl we want to see living her best life in a romcom by Issa Rae ... There's a cognitive dissonance to the experience of reading These Toxic Things. I know it's a thriller, so bad things will happen, but I also wanted/felt that I needed Mickie to stay that boldly carefree girl. She doesn't. And I wanted her many gifts to shield her from harm. They can't. But she does get to be the cool girl, and the 'final girl' and her own unique creation. It's an intriguing, riveting pleasure to watch the action unfold and see how the pieces fit together.
... inventive ... Michaela’s narration is absorbing as she navigates Nadia’s mysteries and faces secrets buried in her own unraveling past. Hall offers an intriguing serial-murder twist and an evocative tribute to one of L.A.’s historically Black neighborhoods.
Rachel Howzell Hall infuses her characters with life. They feel like real people with real feelings leading real lives, along with their memories and the memorabilia that enrich them. As the story unfolds, suspense takes over --- and with plenty of clues and red herrings, These Toxic Things is a compelling read, as well as a rich addition to the author’s impressive body of work.