Title: Walking The Labyrinth
Author: Lisa Goldstein
Publisher: Open Road Media Sci Fi Fantasy
Date of Publication: 21 October 2014
Number of Pages: 248
Genre: Mystery / Sci Fi /Fiction (adult)
Rating: 2 stars
Disclaimer: Copy provided free by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Investigating her family history, Molly slips into a world of magic
Backstage at a vaudeville in Oakland, California, a reporter sits down for an interview with Callan Allalie, patriarch of a family of traveling magicians. As the journalist asks his questions, Callan’s sisters dazzle him with tricks too delicate for the stage. The night quickly whirls out of control as all manner of untold magic warps the writer’s mind, and the next morning, he can’t be sure that he witnessed it at all.
Sixty years later, a private detective confronts Molly, the last descendent of the Allalie clan, to ask questions about one of Callan’s sisters, who seemed to vanish after the performance in Oakland. As Molly delves into the mysteries of the Allalies, she discovers a connection to a shadowy organization of nineteenth-century mystics—and a family secret that will change the way she looks at the world forever.
Review: With a blurb like this I know many people will be interested in the title. Unfortunately, the blurb does not tell the truth or set up accurate expectations for the reader. The entire book lacks a level of cohesion and relies on naive, dishonest and slightly racist tropes to signify differences between American and UK culture, ways of speaking and ways of understanding. It is rather tedious. There is also an element of repetition that holds the story back and hinders the flow of the story.
The characters in the book will fade into memory very quickly as even during reading, I had difficulty keeping them straight. There is nothing about them that makes you want to know them or feel emotionally involved. The most interesting people are the ones who hardly make an appearance. Like Kate and Alex. None of the characters had that full, defined feeling a reader can quite rightly expect. It also felt as though the characters were doing a lot of the work to progress the plot when, to some degree, they should have been pawns in parts of the same plot. To varying degrees, this is what was happening but I’m not convinced the basic storyline was strong enough and as such, the characters didn’t stand a chance.
The “relationship” between Molly and John is also feeble. They’re supposed to be connected by a genealogical murder mystery but considering they’ve only just met and barely know each other, the believability of the premise is wanting. I find it hard to accept Molly going off to the UK with John, on a whim, with little background or character appraisal having occurred first. She just trusts him. He doesn’t even produce any hard evidence of who he is or if he’s a real private investigator. I realise things were different in 1993 when this book first appeared but some dangers never change. Add to this, the fact Molly doesn’t recognise John because he’s wearing glasses when she meets him at the airport and I have to ask how much more proof is needed that she doesn’t know him at all well?
Considering the style of writing of Walking the Labyrinth and comparing it to This Little Piggy by Bea Davenport, it becomes apparent that there are inherent weaknesses in the prose. Davenport writes a novel in 2014 but situates it convincingly, thirty years in the past. Goldstein write a novel in 1998 set three years earlier and it is as bogged down in strange treacle. I find it amazing Goldstein’s book won the National Book Award.
Then there is the lack of research. Goldstein doesn’t seem to understand the underground is also a series of train lines. I didn’t mark up the reference to this part and life’s too short to go back and find it.
There is also the lack of creativity of expletives with the overuse of “Good lord” by Molly. It seems a lot of the dialogue was underdeveloped and was in need of help.
I found myself in complete disbelief when they’re scared they will be accused and arrested for “damaging historical British property” over the removal of three pages in an old book in a private library. I couldn’t believe the foolishness of their reaction. It isn’t like they have stolen and defaced a book from the British Library or a great museum. It’s such a dishonest way of writing.
There are a lot of notes I made over the course of this book and I could nit pick the text to death but I won’t. There isn’t anything I can add that hasn’t already been covered by other reviewers.
EDIT: The ending!!!!!!!!!!!!! What. The. Actual. Fuck! (I’m sorry. I try not to swear in reviews but it doesn’t matter they’re third cousins. It doesn’t matter one jot! Perhaps I’ve misread the text (though I doubt it) because no one else seems to have mentioned this. Here be spoilers so stop reading or scroll down to see more.
But when Molly arrives at the house and is introduced to family, Alex is mentioned as the grandson of an aunt (or similar) so as far I’m concerned, that’s still incest. I don’t want to seem prudish and I will retract this section if need be but I had to have a shower after this.