Jessica Hagedorn’s ferociously entertaining new novel, which opens with the tragic death of Romeo Byron, one of Hollywood’s hottest young actors, centers on two women who are neighbors in Manhattan’s West Village. Mimi Smith, a filmmaker whose only screen credit is a low-budget slasher movie, finds herself in desperate need of resuscitation for both her career and downwardly-spiraling life. Her neighbor, Eleanor Delacroix, is a legendary, scandalous literary figure, now nearing eighty and addicted to cocaine and gin. Their personal and artistic lives begin to converge in unexpected ways as Eleanor grieves over the recent death of her long-time lover, the renowned painter Yvonne Wilder, and as Mimi confronts the challenges presented by the mysterious disappearance of her drug-dealing boyfriend, Bobby; by her newly sober if still somewhat loopy brother, Carmelo; and by her wayward fourteen-year-old daughter, Violet.
Looming over this vast canvas of unforgettable characters is the ghost of Agnes – an “illegal” and cousin of Mimi’s who might have been murdered by her New Jersey employers. Toxicology is, often all at the same time, a dark, fearless, playful, savagely funny and ultimately heartbreaking witch’s brew of a novel exploring the connection between creativity and self-destruction.