Reader reviews for The Girl in the Glass

I enjoyed this book which seamlessly works elements of subtle fantasy, a story about a good deed done by con artists, spiritualism, lepidopterology, immigration, eugenics, and racism into a novel set during the Great Depression. This was the first thing I'd read by Jefferey Ford, but I'll be looking for more of his work.
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I didn't realize when I got it that it was going to be so incredibly good. I read it all in one sitting, in about 2 and a half hours, without moving from my spot. It's funny, serious and you get a whodunit as well in the bargain.I'll try to outline this (no spoilers) but you absolutely MUST go read it for yourself. I'm so happy I read it.This book is set in early 1930s America, during the Depression. To keep himself employed, con man extraordinaire Tom Schell (who is obsessed with butterflies), along with his "ward" Diego, an illegal Mexican immigrant, get into the homes of the upper east coast wealthy by posing as a medium and his assistant. Tom is the medium, Diego (who also narrates the events of this story) is his trusty Hindu assistant, Ondoo. There's also Schell's trusty jack-of-all-trades (including driving and pistol packing) henchman Anthony. Tom also has a host of "associates" he can call on for help in pretty much any given situation. The seance sessions tend to go very well, and those who request the seances tend to pay very well. Both Tom & Diego have fun with their work until they are doing a seance and Tom sees a vision of a little girl in a pane of glass. He didn't set up the con, nor did Diego. So is it real? Has Tom stumbled onto powers he doesn't know he has? I won't say any more about the plot. You must find out for yourself.There is a great scene in this book toward the end that made me laugh out loud and made me think that this book could really work well as a movie. But aside from all of the funny stuff, and all of the hoodoo, there's a serious note to this story, one that sort of sobered me and made me do an "aha" at the end. If you don't mind a bit of irreverent humor amidst a whodunit, you'll really like this one. Don't forget the Acknowledgments section in the back.Jeffrey Ford is an awesome writer, one not to be missed. Again...quite good, a fun read, but with a message. Recommended, for sure!
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Jeffrey Ford is fast becoming one of my favourite authors, and has yet to disapoint me, whether in a full length novel or in his short stories( which I highly recommend). The Girl in the Glass is told from the point of view of Diego, a Mexican illegal immigrant in the depression years of New York City. In order to prevent his deportation, he is constantly disguised as Ondoo, the indian swami, and he makes his living with the conmen who took him as fake spiritualists. One day his benefactor Schell sees the ghost of a girl in the glass, and they are taken on an adventure involving a conspiracy that soon jeapardises their lives. Jeffrey Ford excells in the small touches of the supernatural in his relaistic settings, meaning that the reader is never entirely comfortable with explanations and actions, adding to the thrill of reading the book. All in all a great read.
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Although I wouldn't have thought I might like this book at first, I was surprisingly sucked into the book very quickly! I really didn't want to put it down. I will definitely be reading this author again!
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Pretty good story--read last 90 mins in the middle of an insomnia night.
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Superb! Excellent mystery, excellent characterizations, excellent historical perspective. Incidental commentary about the effects of prejudice. I wish every book were this good, I'd finish a lot more of them. A quote from the back cover sums it up: "At once a hypnotically compelling mystery and a stunningly evocative portrait of Depression-era New York, The Girl in the Glass is a masterly literary adventure from a writer of exemplary vision and skill." Couldn't have said it better myself - that's exactly what I found.
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I read this book for a RL book group. It is a quiet little story that is packed full of interesting tidbits. It is a mystery, historical fiction, science fiction, adventure and history with a bit of supernatural, or maybe a con ?It is a mystery story set in The Depression on Long Island. The focus of the story is a small band of spiritualists. Con men who prey on the bereaved wealthy who are interested in the spirit world. Although they could be despicable characters, they are not. Yet they don't flinch from actually fleecing their marks.The leader of the band is the gruff, yet cultured butterfly aficionado Thomas Schell. He has taken in a young illegal Mexican immigrant orphan, Diego. Thomas has been training Diego to be an Indian (Asian) Swami, to use his dark skin to hide Diego from the notice of the authorities. Times are tough and feeling is running high against the Mexicans who are seen to be taking American jobs. Anyone seeming to be Mexican is deported. Hmmm.Thomas has connections in the carny/circus/freak shows of NYC and he uses them to help train Diego. Thomas also tries to educate him and raise him as a son. He doesn't shelter Diego, but actually uses him in his cons.One night during a performance, Thomas sees the reflection of a young, small girl in the window glass. He is shaken because she is not part of his show/con. There is a story Thomas reads later in the paper about the young daughter of a rich family that has gone missing. It is a family that has used the services of Thomas' crew for a death in the family.Thomas and his crew go to the family, find the image he saw is the daughter, and offer to help in the search. There is already another 'medium' there. They seem to work together. The woman is not what she seems, even for a con artist. The story develops with their search for the girl, and for those who are responsible. It leads to fact based American Nazi sympathizers of the time, those who support the idea of racial purity, eugenics experiments and a rousing rescue.Thomas then lets on that he made up the sighting of the girl in the glass .... or did he ?The story is told from Diego's POV as he lives, grows, and participates in Thomas' cons and in the odd family life he has constructed. Diego reaches a point where he has to make a decision about the course of his life. The story also has a satisfying follow up years later to see the consequences of his decision, and ends with a twist.The writing was very good, the characters and the setting were done well. It was interesting and had good emotional resonance. It was also set during a time that I have not spent much time reading about, so I enjoyed the novelty. Very good read.
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After a little bit of initial resistance, I really ended up liking this a lot. Its a well told and nicely crafted tale about a group of spiritualist grifters working the inhabitants of the mansions of Long Island during the Great Depression. Like other tales of this era - Paper Moon, The Sting, Bonnie and Clyde even, its an open question whether the grifters or the solid citizens are the greater crooks.

I liked the characters a lot, and there were some wonderfully resonant images here. Also I very much liked the thread of weirdness that runs through the fabric of the tale, just a little glitter here and a sparkle there. This is not a story that goes to strange worlds except in so far as the past is another world, but it does carry a slight flavor of otherness. It wouldn't entirely surprise me if the smelly stuffed crocodile amidst the curiosities on display in the corner of some overdecorated parlor winked a cynical eye before returning to immobility as if he never left it.
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A mediocre mystery set in the 30s. Con men who put on phony séances for rich people get involved in solving a murder. It's a lively story but lightweight – they don't talk right for the period, and the characters aren't well drawn. Plus there are various cliché characters – the strong man with a heart of gold, the orphan who's been adopted by a quirky con man. It's just a standard grade C mystery. I realized it fooled me because it's a trade paperback. If it were pocket book size, I'd never have picked it up.
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This is my latest pick from an author I recently discovered. Set in the time of the Great Depression in New York/Long Island, this story weaves an interesting web about a con man named Schell who specializes in staging fantastic séances for his wealthy clients. We learn about his adopted son, Diego- the ‘swami’, his ever faithful go-to-guy; Antony Cleopatra, the ‘bugatorium’ where Schell raises butterflies, and a host of other oddball and interesting characters as they make their way in the world. Everything from carnies, kidnappers, booze running during prohibition, and the KKK in Long Island is included in this tale. Told from the point of view of Diego; Schell decides to do an honest job after he reportedly sees the ghost of a kidnapped young girl in the glass of a window while performing a bogus séance for a rich client. I thought the main focus of the story would be the girl but it was not. So the book was a bit different than what I originally expected. The story is more about Diego’s life and the influences on it that shape him. None the less, it was an interesting tale with unexpected plot twists, and an ending I could predict but still liked anyway.
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