Thursday, 18 July 2013

STANLEY ELLIN - MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WALL

Synopsis/blurb.....

"When divorced businessman Peter Hibben gets home to his Greenwich Village apartment, he's stunned to find a body in the bathroom with his gun lying next to it. Only his teenage son Nick and the cleaning lady Ofelia had keys to the place. How could this have happened? Soon, his lawyer Irwin Gold and shrink Dr. Ernst show up to question Peter as he tries to remember the past 24 hours. Indeed, he thinks back through his failed marriage, the call girls in London and Copenhagen, to Vivien Papazor, the young redheaded chippie his father ran off with. Vivien humiliated teenaged Peter when he confronted her, and may have influenced his later predilection for putting on women's clothing. But there are even greater shocks in store in this tricky 1972 novel."

Ellin was a highly regarded US mystery writer who died in the mid-80’s. Winner of several Edgar Awards, he won the Le Grand Prix du Meilleur Roman Policier Etranger award (presumably in France) for this effort originally published in 1972.

This was a bit of a strange one to be honest, though all became clear at the end with a twist I hadn’t seen coming. Mirror, Mirror at about 130 pages long was a short, quick read and I was through it in a day at the beach.

After discovering a dead body in his apartment, Hibben is ostensibly put on trial and interrogated by his lawyer and his psychiatrist – who happens to be his ex-wife’s current husband. Struggling to deal with the tragedy and fearful that his son may be responsible; we are treated to flashbacks from his life in an effort to discover how we ended up where we are today.

Parental fooling around, sexual encounters and hang-ups, marital disharmony, work-place pressures, efforts to maintain a loving relationship with his son in the aftermath of the break-up of his marriage all feature before Ellin spins the novel on its head at the conclusion.

Probably a 3 plus, so I’ll round up to a 4 from 5.

I have more from this author to read in the future, courtesy of a bargain find at a local car-boot sale about a month ago. This and Stronghold and The Blessington Method  all for a bargain £1.

10 comments:

  1. Col, if I didn't visit book blogs I'd never hear of writers like Stanley Ellin who has been on my list of authors to read for a while now. I hope to get to his books soon — fingers crossed!.

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    1. Prashant, I'm finding new-old writers all the time. Good luck with your Ellin hunt!

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  2. I've read a few by Stanley Ellin, and I eventually decided I like his short stories better than the novels - Blessington Method is short stories I think, some of them very good.

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    1. Moira, I might stick the short stories in the car, as I can dip in and out - hopefully!
      I think I also have The Specialty of the House shelved at home somewhere, more shorts.

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  3. Col - Trust the early seventies for deeply psychological plots like this one - all family dysfunction, etc.. I'm glad the plot and so on worked well for you.

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    1. Margot, an interesting observation you make on the time period and a "vogue" perhaps for psychological crime. It worked for me this time, and will again but I wouldn't solely like to read this type of book.
      I find a lot of reads like this are open to interpretation and don't always trust myself to come to the same conclusion as the author may have intended.
      If it looks like a tomato, and feels like a tomato, I want it to taste a tomato and not a banana!

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  4. I have heard of this author and want to try his books, but... you know the story, too many books, I will never catch up. When I do try his books, I want to try some of the earlier ones first. And I have heard that his short stories are very good. I just don't particularly enjoy short stories.

    It was good to read your review and get an idea of what his books are like.

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    1. Tracy, I enjoyed it, but I don't feel compelled to backtrack through his catalogue and hunt around for everything, which I sometimes have with other authors after a first read.
      Too many books - sums it up.
      Maybe you'll find something in September.

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  5. I am not familiar with him Col but I used to watch the Hitchcock series on TV - in B&W as I recall. I shall keep an eye out now. Thanks so much x

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    1. Jane, thanks for stopping by. I hope you cross paths with him. I think my copies of his books are all fairly old editions. He's isn't someone you see too often on the shelves when out browsing.

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