Century | 2017 (26 January) | 336p | Review copy | Buy the book
When literary agent Peter Katz receives a submission from hopeful author Richard Flynn, he is hooked. About thirty years ago, while a student at Princeton, Flynn had worked for Joseph Wieder, a famous and charismatic professor of psychology, whose work centred upon the function and meaning of memory. Wieder was murdered in his home in 1987, bludgeoned to death, his papers found lying around him. Flynn had been one of the original suspects in a case that had never been solved. Now, for some reason, Flynn has written a book about what went on all those years ago. The submitted chapters instantly read bestseller to Katz but, even more than that, he is desperate to read more, to discover the revelations that Katz is certain to be found within. Katz is driven to discover the truth.
But what is the truth? In The Book of Mirrors, three figures pick up the narrative baton – first there is Katz reading the Flynn manuscript, then there is journalist John Keller (hired by Katz to pick up the pieces of the story) and, finally, Roy Freeman, a police officer who took part in the original investigation into the Wieder murder. All three have different perspectives and each is separated from events by a large number of years. So, too, are the people and witnesses that they contact. How reliable are they? Can their memories be trusted?
A major theme throughout is the reliability of memory, the forces that can manipulate it, the difficulty of deciphering it, the inevitability of losing it. The centre of it all is, of course, the memory man himself, Professor Joseph Wieder. Ironically, he has been reduced to little more than a memory himself, but in which memory can be found the truth?
The Book of Mirrors is undoubtedly an intriguing and clever mystery but I found that I wasn’t able to engage with it as much as I hoped. The beginning is especially cold, largely due to the narrative style of Flynn’s manuscript which comprises much of the novel’s first third. I really didn’t care for Flynn. But I’m glad to say that the middle third hooked me and this was sealed by the best of all, the final third which is spent in the company of Roy Freeman, a man I cared for very much. But even more dislikeable than Richard Flynn is Professor Wieder and certain other characters I might mention, but won’t.
Despite my detachment from some of the characters and their troubles, once I became hooked I found A Book of Mirrors extremely difficult to put down. Just like Peter Katz, I really wanted to learn what had happened and it is a very good puzzle. I also enjoyed the structure a great deal and loved the idea of one man passing on the story to another. This worked very well. The highlight for me, though, was Roy Freeman, a man who knows better than anyone, even Professor Wieder, the significance of memory.