Saturday 3 August 2019

Dark Book Review: The Other Side of the Mirror

Dark Book Review: The Other Side of the Mirror

Review By Casey Douglass

The Other Side of the Mirror

The Other Side of the Mirror is the noir tale of Detective Carl Duggan and his duties in a depraved city. As you might expect, it starts with a body being discovered: a pregnant nineteen-year-old woman found washed up on the banks of the river. It’s not long before other dead bodies are found in other locations, their demise causing much head-scratching for the Detective. If this wasn’t enough, someone also appears to be killing gay men, which adds an extra touch of menace to the already foreboding city.

The first thing that I noticed upon beginning The Other Side of the Mirror, was the appeal of the location it is set in. Not that I’d want to go to a city like that, but the seedy, corrupt bleakness just sets in, even from the very first pages. The river Styx runs through the city, splitting it into two parts: the East and West. The West side is wealthy, the East side run-down and poor. “Poor filth and rich filth, separated by an expanse of ebony water.” The river itself gained its nickname from the number of bodies that have been pulled out of it. A nice touch. Definitely more intriguing than “The River Shopping Trolley” or “Condom Estuary”.

Carl lives on the East side but events see him having to cross the East and West-linking Steel Gate Bridge a number of times, hating it every time he does. He views the East side as more honest in its depravity, and that the West side is just “crime with a more expensive price-tag”. Much like in the real world, money paves the way for a variety of averted eyes and sins being washed away. I enjoyed the split in locations and the parallels to other ‘split’ elements in the story. As much as I enjoyed the city though, and the seeming perpetual snow and ice it was cloaked in, I did get slightly tired of the “Once you come to the city it doesn’t let you leave” vibe. But only slightly.

Carl, as a protagonist, is a Detective not afraid to bend the rules, in no small part due to him being one of only a few who aren’t in someone’s back-pocket, which is ironic if you think about it. He has a decent heart, but doesn’t hold back when violence is needed. He also treats the victims and witnesses of crime with respect, which is more than some of the others do. He balances a lot of spinning plates but ultimately, I think, is ready to let them fall. As the story progresses, things ramp up, and he becomes more disgusted with the city and its residents than ever before.

The denizens of the city are an interesting bunch, from a swashbuckling gang of rich psychopaths to a religious hit-man, but not all residents are steeped in violence. Some are just trying to get by, doing the best that they can in whatever job they are lucky enough to have. Pimping, prostitution and drugs are common, and homelessness too. If people are sometimes up shit creak without a paddle, these unfortunates aren’t even in a boat, and are struggling to keep their mouths above the brown sludge that they are bobbing along in.

As far as the narrative, I enjoyed it. There was enough happening to keep me happily rolling along with events. The chapters are, for the most part, short and punchy, and when things begin to intertwine, a few pennies dropped in my mind. There were things I guessed, others that I didn’t see coming, and the ending I kind of guessed but was only half right, which is a result that I am more than happy with.

The Other Side of the Mirror is an enjoyable noir murder mystery, set in a flavourful location and peppered with degenerate characters and struggling innocents. The action is swift and brutal, the consequences seeding more discontent in an already dire city. If you enjoy noir thrillers in settings like this, you should certainly consider giving this book a closer look.

I was given a review copy of this book.

Book Title: The Other Side of the Mirror
Book Author: Lex H. Jones
Publisher: Hellbound Books