The Mirror's Edge, Steven Sidor, St. Martin's Minotaur, $24.95.
Don't they kind of drive you crazy, those chapters from an author's "coming soon" book that the publishers stick at the end of the latest paperback? It's such a tease - if it's any good it will suck you in and then bang you realize that, not only does the story not continue, but there's no way to find out what will happen because the book's not even out yet.
I experienced a painful case of narrative interruptus when I read the first part of Steven Sidor's The Mirror's Edge (then entitled Cloven Print) at the end of his excellent second novel Bone Factory. It was an amazing excerpt, a premise that pulled me right in, about an haunted journalist whose brother had been abducted and killed during his childhood and who is now obsessively pursuing a similar case in which a pair of twins have gone missing. The whole thing proved to be even more frustrating because the book, rather than being available in hardcover as claimed in November 2006 won't actually appear until April 1, 2008.
Luckily, Steve sent me an advance reader's copy, and I'm finally able to tell you that the book by and large lives up to that impressive tease. Told in the first person present tense by the very jittery and cynical narrator, Jase Deering, The Mirror's Edge quickly cast a dark spell reminiscent in tone if not in language to that great underappreciated master of modern gloom Thomas Cook. The first half is brilliant - there's very little hard evidence in the mystery of the missing twins, but a persistent vein of innuendo and gossip seems to point to Graham Morick, an apparently mild mannered children's book author who happens to be the son of the late, infamous Aubrey Hart Morick, an Aleister Crowley / Anton LeVey type occultist and the leader of a cult of Satanists fixated on using twins in a immortality producing blood sacrifice. All that sounds pretty crazy to Jase too, and the immediacy of the prose allows the reader to share his uncertainty and growing tension as he wonders if he really is as gullible and paranoid as the police accuse him of being, or if there really is an unholy conspiracy at work.
Once the ambiguity is cleared up The Mirror's Edge loses a little of its buzz. Since the days of Dennis Wheatley, the prolific writer of The Devil Rides Out and many other mid-century potboilers, it's been hard to write about the perils of Satanism without at least a small helping of cheese, and after the first finger is eaten some readers may want to put the book down. That would be a mistake, however, as the narrative quickly regains its mojo to produce a stunning closing sequence and ending. As I enjoyed it I realized that Sidor didn't intend to write a traditional whodunit, but rather to mine the noir territory where siblings horror and mystery intersect. He wants to provide not only the satisfactions of successful detection but the frisson of the supernatural as well, and in The Mirror's Edge he succeeds admirably. (Jamie)
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