Atria Books, February 21, 2017.
The Book of Mirrors is a novel in three parts, revolving around a cold case murder that happened in 1987. Professor Weider, a well-known psychologist, was found beaten to death in his home, with no reliable witnesses. The three men who narrate the respective sections become obsessed with finding a motive for the murder – it could have been a crime of passion, an act of intellectual theft, or revenge for the victim’s work as an expert witness, testifying against violent criminals.
In the first part, a literary agent receives a partial book manuscript written by a man named Richard Flynn, who worked for Weider at the time of his death. The agent, Katz, thinks that the book may be a confession to murder, but unfortunately Flynn dies before he can complete the story. The manuscript takes up most of Katz’s section of the novel, so we hear about events from Flynn’s own perspective first. He writes about his girlfriend Laura, and her relationship as protégé to Professor Weider. According to Richard, the two were working on a secret project involving memory and its manipulation – Laura told him that the project essentially involved erasing traumatic memories in soldiers. Richard is overwhelmed by the idea that our memories are not “reality” but are in fact subjective, to be edited by our future minds.
After Richard’s story ends abruptly, Katz hires an investigative journalist, John Keller, to follow up on the details of Weider’s death. He interviews several key witnesses, such as the brain-damaged handyman Derek, who Weider took care of after he was released from psychiatric care. Keller also manages to track down Laura, who tells him that Richard was not actually her boyfriend – he was a delusional stalker and she changed her name to hide from him. Laura’s testimony calls into question the validity of all of Richard’s memories, and she casts him as the main suspect in Weider’s murder. Like Keller, we cannot know which account of the relationship is true.
Keller also meets with retired detective Roy Freeman, who narrates the final section of the novel – he is inspired to take another look at the Weider case, which he worked on as a young police officer. Roy has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, and as he deals with the effects of his diagnosis, his character embellishes the theme of memory and forgetting. He shows us that we are all unreliable when narrating our own lives, as memories are continually evolving. Roy’s investigation finally leads to the truth about the night that Weider died, although his path is very convoluted.
I found the voices of the narrators in each part to be very similar, and I think the story would have been more compelling if they were more distinct as characters. I also think the memory theme was underdeveloped – it was implied from the start that solving the crime will be connected to memory and psychology, and I think it could have gone in a more interesting, less traditional direction. The ending also doesn’t tie up all the loose ends, and some interesting plot threads were completely dropped. This was still an intriguing, intelligent mystery novel, but the whole time I found myself waiting for more.
I received this book from Atria Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.