"Publishers Weekly" raved that "with near-universal appeal . Read more...
"Publishers Weekly" raved that "with near-universal appeal . . .Seay s debut novel is a true delight, a big, beautiful cabinet of wonders that is by turns an ominous modern thriller, a supernatural mystery, and an enchanting historical adventure story."Set in three cities in three eras, "The Mirror Thief" calls to mind David Mitchell and Umberto Eco in its mix of entertainment and literary bravado.
The core story is set in Venice in the sixteenth century, when the famed makers of Venetian glass were perfecting one of the old world's most wondrous inventions: the mirror. An object of glittering yet fearful fascination was it reflecting simple reality, or something more spiritually revealing? the Venetian mirrors were state of the art technology, and subject to industrial espionage by desirous sultans and royals world-wide. But for any of the development team to leave the island was a crime punishable by death. One man, however a world-weary war hero with nothing to lose has a scheme he thinks will allow him to outwit the city's terrifying enforcers of the edict, the ominous Council of Ten . . .
Meanwhile, in two other Venices Venice Beach, California, circa 1958, and the Venice casino in Las Vegas, circa today two other schemers launch similarly dangerous plans to get away with a secret . . .
All three stories will weave together into a spell-binding tour-de-force that is impossible to put down an old-fashioned, stay-up-all-night novel that, in the end, returns the reader to a stunning conclusion in the original Venice . . . and the bedazzled sense of having read a truly original and thrilling work of art."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-01-18
- Reviewer: Staff
Seay’s debut novel is a true delight, a big, beautiful cabinet of wonders that is by turns an ominous modern thriller, a supernatural mystery, and an enchanting historical adventure story. The first stop is present-day Las Vegas, where an ex-Marine turned manhunter named Curtis Stone descends into the Strip’s seedy underworld to track a famous gambler named Stanley Glass through the prefab canals of the Venetian-themed hotel and casino, but finds instead a mysterious book called The Mirror Thief. On that note, the narrative jumps back to 1958 in Venice Beach, at the dawn of the Beat poetry scene, where Stanley is a small-time con artist obsessed with the enigmatic Adrian Welles, author of The Mirror Thief. Finally, and most sensationally, readers are treated to the subject of Welles’s book himself, the man called Crivano, who in 1592 embarks on a dangerous mission in the Italian Venice, gorgeously rendered as a fantasia of conspirators, alchemists, and heretics caught between the dangers of plague and the Inquisition. Without realizing it, Crivano, Stanley, and Curtis are searching for the same thing: the mystery hidden behind mirrors (both literal and figurative), through which, as Welles writes, “you meet the stranger you have always been.” In sum, this is a splendid masterpiece, to be loved like a long-lost friend, an epic with near-universal appeal. (May)
A delightfully ambitious debut
No one can accuse Martin Seay of lacking ambition. His first novel, The Mirror Thief, is a 600-page thrill ride across three centuries and two continents. But this is hardly a punishment for readers. It’s a workout, but of the intellectual kind: part crime thriller and part meditation on poetry, with unexpected plot twists and references to famous figures as diverse as the French dramatist Antonin Artaud and Jay Leno.
The action moves back and forth among three different parts of the world and three distinct eras. In 2003, on the eve of the second Gulf War, Curtis Stone, a 40-year-old African-American ex-Marine, arrives in Las Vegas from his Philadelphia home. A club owner named Damon has hired Curtis to search for gambler Stanley Glass, ostensibly to collect on a marker. Curtis has trouble locating the elusive Stanley, but he finds one of Stanley’s treasured possessions: a slender volume of poems, “The Mirror Thief,” written in 1958 by a proto-beatnik named Adrian Welles.
Cut to 1958, when Stanley, a 16-year-old card sharp fresh off the train from Staten Island, shows up in Malibu, California, in hope of meeting Welles. Stanley, who adores Welles’ poems, wants to talk about “The Mirror Thief” and its mysterious subject: a 16th-century alchemist named Crivano. The novel’s wildly ambitious third segment takes us to Venice in 1592, where a sultan has sent the murderous Crivano to “locate craftsmen adept at fashioning the flawless mirrors for which every civilized land celebrates the isle of Murano, and return with those craftsmen to the Ottoman court.”
The Mirror Thief is overstuffed with incident and period detail, but it’s still an impressive feat of imagination. Much of this book, Seay seems to be saying, is like one’s reflection in a mirror: What you see in front of you isn’t the whole story.