Title: In The Mirror A Monster
Author: Marten Weber
Publisher: Aquarius Publishing
Amazon: Buy Link In the Mirror a Monster
Genre: mystery/contemporary gay fiction
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Sirius
Summary: Quite unusual book which finally sold me on this writer.
Tim and Tim, an elderly couple, have been running a bed & breakfast in Edinburgh, Scotland, for over thirty years. Their relationship is one of kind love and deep trust—they tell each other everything. A handful of lodgers give the old house a lively character. Jamie, the charming American hunk who won’t settle down; Javier, a Spanish cook who prefers pornography to real people; Aleysha, an Ugandan refugee and her newborn baby.
Into this idyll burst two attractive young men from Slovakia. Everybody agrees that they must be a couple—why else would they be staying here? They hug and cuddle, touch each other openly, and even kiss without shame.
But there is something strange about them. Something does not fit. Before long, Tim and the nosy lodgers are uncovering a secret nobody could have expected. A secret which begins to affect everyone and even threatens to unravel the landlords’ long-term relationship.
Marten Weber’s most compelling contemporary work to date, “In the Mirror, a Monster” is a masterpiece of modern story-telling. A whodunnit without a murder, a thriller without violence, it is a captivating and authentic mystery novel, rooted firmly in the localities of Yorkshire and Scotland, but also the intricate connections of the international gay community.
With a keen ear for dialectical nuances, Marten Weber offers a truly compelling read. The style is tight and to the point, dramatic and hilarious, infused with breathtaking clarity and an often magical ability to lay bare what lies behind our motivations and feelings.
Marten Weber won the Rainbow Literary Award for his portrayal of Benedetto, Casanova’s gay brother. Learn more about the author on www.martenweber.com.
I requested this book for review for a very specific reason: I previously DNFed two books by this writer. You would probably ask me whether it is a little strange reason to request the book for review, unless I am keen on torturing myself :). But I saw very clearly that the reason I DNFed those books was the very clear case of “it is not the book, it is me”. I saw that the books were well written, well edited, but the writing just did not click with me; I felt like I had to find my way through a lot of words if that makes sense. And there was one of my online friends who kept raving about this writer and I decided I had to try one more time. I am very glad I did.
Granted for the first 8-10% of the story I wanted to shake the narrator and ask him to please get over with choosing the way he wants to tell the freaking story and start telling it already. But since I requested the book for review I could not really abandon it and after that it became an awesome story.
I am not sure how I would characterize this story. The blurb calls it a mystery without murder and a thriller without violence and I suppose it is a fair way to label it. In fact, the author builds up the tension over a seemingly simple question (whether the guys from Slovakia are gays and whether they are a couple) like nobody’s business. I mean, I have read plenty of romance stories where one guy wonders whether another one is gay, but I do not remember ever being as interested in this question as I was while I was reading this story. Probably because no matter what I was assured that the guys in romance story would end up together – and this story is not even a romance, maybe it has some romantic elements at most – and the people who take such an interest in the guys from Slovakia are their temporary landlords and temporary housemates. What I am trying to say here is that when I think about it, I am not sure how the author achieved such tension in what seemed to be such a prosaic situation. I read the book in one sitting and was not able to go to bed till I was done.
At the same time while I think that “mystery” is a fair label for this story, I think it is so much more than that. I would say that it is also a meditation on the topic “what does it mean to be a gay man”, or maybe more broadly “what does it mean to be a decent human being”. The narrator sure goes into general philosophical topics a lot as well, so maybe Tim was just trying to figure out the meaning of his life and those who mean a lot to him?
The novel is populated with several very interesting and quite flawed characters but by the time I was done I knew that I cared deeply for all of them.I really want to talk more about the characters, about the interesting characterization in several of the main ones, but it will be unfortunately a lot of spoilers talk, so I will be quiet.
I rarely allow myself to comment on the editing of the story – because I miss things so often, take my comments with the possible grain of salt – but in this one the editing just seemed so very tight. I cannot think about anything in this text as unnecessary extras. Even the narrator’s rambles felt very much in its place, but beware that you will need to adjust to his voice in the beginning, so check the excerpt first.
I was very surprised as to how much I loved the story, but I definitely see that it is not for everybody.