I received The Book of Mirrors in exchange for an honest review
“I remembered the title of Flynn’s book and the maze of distorting mirrors you used to find at carnivals when I was a kid – everything you saw when you went inside was both true and false at the same time.”
This book left me with mixed feelings. The writing style felt slightly unnatural to me, almost devoid of emotion and more just a relaying of various facts about the characters’ lives. Each of the main narrators had their own romantic entanglements but I really struggled to care about them, and, to some extent, all of their voices felt very similar.
But, on the other hand, this psychological thriller has an intelligent, strong, multi-layered plot which, despite some issues with the narrative, was enough to carry it through and keep me avidly reading.
The book opens with Peter Katz, a literary agent who receives a partial manuscript from a man called Richard Flynn. Katz has received many manuscripts over the years, but there’s a kind of desperation in Flynn’s letter which gets his attention. In his book, Flynn recounts a short period in his life during his time at Princeton, a time when he became close to his housemate Laura Baines and worked for popular but enigmatic Professor Weider.
I enjoyed the ‘book within a book’ – the manuscript is gripping, and ends on a cliffhanger on the night we know that the famous Professor Weider was murdered. Katz tries to contact Flynn to get the rest, but finds out he’s too late – the fledgeling writer has died.
But the manuscript has got his attention and, even without the writer to finish the story, Katz thinks that he can make something of it. Armed with the new information on the Professor’s relationships, Katz asks reporter John Keller to investigate.
The author uses a range of narratives to peel back the layers of the decades-old crime. We hear from Katz, Flynn through his manuscript, we follow Keller’s investigations and, finally, Roy Freeman, the retired detective who worked on the case at the time. Each reveals a different piece to the puzzle, but it’s unclear who can be trusted and how they all fit together until the final few chapters.
“They’d all been wrong and had seen nothing but their own obsessions through the windows they’d tried to gaze through, which in fact turned out to have been mirrors all along.”
The murdered professor was carrying out some controversial research in the field of human memory, and this is a resonating theme throughout the book. It explores how memories can shift and change over time, how a person’s perception of events can be distorted by their own obsessions and how life-altering memory-related conditions such as amnesia and Alzheimer’s can be.
For me personally, The Book Of Mirrors didn’t stand out in the busy crime genre, and I would have liked a little more character development and emotion. But there’s some intelligent themes and an unpredictable, fast-paced plot which kept me reading. It didn’t blow me away, but I enjoyed it all the same.