Genre: Speculative Fiction
Finn runs a book shop which makes very little money. This is largely because he is a dippy sort of young man whose priorities are mainly beer and girls. He is also a rare book collector. In one lot of rare books he acquires a puzzling set of six books which he can’t remember buying. They were all published in the nineteenth century (apparently) and detail history they ought not to know about – yet they are accurate in every particular. Finn becomes desperate to read them all and gets himself into some very peculiar scrapes in order to do so.
Surrounding this central thread is his developing relationship with Maia, who he meets at his best friend’s wedding.
The author is from Ontario in Canada (where the book is set). She is a graduate of Waterloo university and her day job is in Marketing. This is her fourth novel. Her website is here.
The reader is given potted histories from each book as Finn proceeds with what quickly becomes obsessive reading. As they are standard school history book stuff, they don’t enhance plot development or pace, although the author does point out the horror of the apparently never-ending mass murders recent history has witnessed.
Finn’s increasing desperation to finish his reading does communicate itself to the reader: I felt his frustration, and need for haste, because of course it is the book which details his own time and beyond which he desperately wants to read.
Fortunately, at the point where Finn is finally ready to read the sixth book the story broadens out into a genuinely interesting mystery. Thus, as the Goons used to say, “this is where the story really starts”.
I found the two major protagonists, Finn and his girlfriend Maia, unsympathetic. Nor could I see why either one would date the other until the sixth book comes into its own, when the reasons for them being as they are, meeting, and becoming lovers make perfect sense. Both characters are essential to the story.
Finn never names a rare book he has bought or one that he wants to buy, and seems only to buy them in job lots. I confess I found it difficult to believe that this lad’s lad was a collector of them.
I have tried, but still cannot understand why Finn didn’t just dip into the first five books enough to satisfy himself that what they recounted was accurate. He could have done that in an evening.
So, for me, the novel could have had a lot of flabbiness removed from around its middle. But the denouement is certainly worth your time.
No significant issues.
Rating: *** Three Stars
Reviewed by: Judi Moore
Approximate word count: 95-100,000 words