Sunday, April 9, 2017

Review: "The Mirror Thief" by Martin Seay

I’m rather surprised a company like Melville House published a book like Martin Seay’s debut novel The Mirror Thief, and that it took such a long time for it to find a home. It’s a flawed work, but for a debut novel, you can’t get any more grand or ambitious. This is a book that I see having a lot of cross over appeal and given the right kind of marketing, it has the chance to be a sleeper hit. It clearly stands in the shadows of someone who is a little bit better at these kind of fractured narratives, with David Mitchell immediately coming to mind. But while each of the three story threads are not equally compelling, each at least has something that pulls the reader in, even if the subject matter goes above your head. And it is rather easy to look at this book as a whole, see what Seay accomplished and respect it for its audacity. Where to begin with a story like this: it starts out in the not so distant past of 2003, where Curtis, newly discharged from the army, is given a job by Damon, a shady acquaintance who manages a recently ripped off casino. The job is to find Stanley, an old friend of his dad who might have been involved with what happened at the casino. He flies to Las Vegas, and, in rather apathetic fashion, finds himself embroiled in a plot that very obviously involves murder. We also flash back to Venice Beach in 1958, where Stanley, then a young grafter, becomes obsessed with a book of poems written by an unknown poet named Adrian Welles, and he, along with a drifter named Claudio, goes in search of Welles. The third part takes place in the 16th century, as the subject of the poem, Crivano, also finds himself involved in a murderous plot, this time dealing with the invention of the mirror and escape from a religiously ruled island. I couldn’t find a connection between any of the three threads, at least directly, but that didn’t ruin the experience. I found the third section the weakest, since it is not the kind of story I’d pick up on its won, but each of the three is carefully researched and written with narrative vigor. This a fun a book, a page-turner with heaps of brains and lots of creativity.

Rating: 4/5

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