- Paperback: 286 pages
- Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; First Edition edition (August 16, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060936193
- ISBN-13: 978-0060936198
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,053,796 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Girl in the Glass: A Novel Paperback – August 16, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
A band of con artists–cum–spiritual mediums focus their psychic and sleuthing powers on a murder mystery in Ford's offbeat, thoroughly researched fifth novel (The Physiognomy; The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque; etc.), set in Depression-era Long Island, on the posh North Shore. Diego, a 17-year-old Mexican illegal immigrant, narrates the escapades, as he follows his mentor and surrogate father Thomas Schell, who rescued him from the street and tutored him in subjects from English to chicanery. Disguised as a Hindu swami, Diego helps Schell conduct phony séances to bilk wealthy Long Islanders. But when Schell sees the apparition of a young girl during a séance and then hears of the disappearance of Charlotte Barnes, daughter of shipping magnate Harold Barnes, he determines to solve the case. Schell and Diego—along with henchman Antony and phony psychic Morgan Shaw—find Charlotte's dead body covered by a cloth painted with a Ku Klux Klan symbol. They link her murder, along with those of several other dead children, both to the Klan and to a nefarious Dr. Greaves, aka Fenton Agarias, who headed up grotesque eugenics experiments. Though Ford's efforts to evoke the period occasionally strike a twee note, he's crafted an engaging read.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Ford's fascinating literary thriller tells the story of an orphan's career as Ondoo, a phony mystic. He is really Diego, a Mexican and part of a trio staging seances for the gullible grieving of Long Island's Gold Coast, where in 1932 you'd never know the Great Depression is raging. Besides whacked-out humor and compelling suspense, there is sentiment among the thieves in the novel, and all those qualities make it hard to put down. After all, how can you not love a wake attended by Hal the Dog Man, Marge the Fat Lady, and "the legless spider boy who walked on his hands and could bite a silver dollar in half," especially when the deceased is Coney Island snake charmer Morty, whose close companion and best friend, Wilma the Cobra, died of a broken heart when he expired and lies coiled up next to his head in the coffin? And when Diego's mentor undertakes a quest for a kidnapped girl, the mood turns mysterious without, thanks to all the fast dialogue, ever slowing the pace. Whitney Scott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
It's often said that time and place should be viewed as a separate character in good books and this book nails it. The ravages of the depression and the intricacies of illusion are given their due, but far more interesting and enlightening are the issues that preoccupied Americans in the early years of that dreadful decade, issues that may be eye-opening to some readers.
The characters fully evolve, especially the young narrator. The pacing is just fine (contrary to a couple of the negative reviews I read here). And, yes, there is violence...because the story demands it, not for episodic reader diversion.
I do hope this book gets the recognition it is due. As I write this, it's on sale on Kindle - buy it, buy it. For fans of mystery and suspense and of historical novels, this is a real treat.
There's nothing literarily splendid about Ford's prose here, but then I doubt such was intended. Instead, Ford is a spellbinding storyteller. His prose, while somewhat generic, flows like butter, and you can't help but turn page after page. There's a wink and a nod to postmodern sensibilities, however, because the principal characters, protagonists and antagonists, have multiple identities, and he does a bit of deconstructing of early twentieth-century America.
The main three characters, Diego, Henry, and Thomas are con men, you see, thriving on that fin de siecle preoccupation of the wealthy: spiritualism. Following a seance, Thomas seems to have seen a girl's image in a window, and five days later the same girl was reported dead. Our three cons decide to investigate the death - gratis. As you might suspect, the story takes all sorts of turns, but the most surprising element is Ford's take on the U.S.`s Eugenics movement, which preceded Hitler's persecution of minorities and World War II. The author is hardly ham-handed in bringing this disgraceful moment of U.S. history to the fore; instead, it's worked seamlessly into the plot and characterizations.
And as you might expect, the characters, while engaging, are given short shrift until story's end, and if I were to offer a single change to the book, it would be to present this end-of-story dwelling on character much earlier, perhaps at the beginning.
This is a fun read, but it informs as easily as it entertains. Ford has clearly mastered his genre.