The Mysteries

by Robert McGill
ISBN: 0771055218

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A Review of: The Mysteries
by W. P. Kinsella

Here we have a first novel that will have the hated word promising' applied to almost every aspect of it. McGill, a real life Rhodes Scholar, has taken on a project that would be difficult or impossible for most veteran fiction writers. The story and aftermath of Alice Pederson's disappearance from a small Ontario town is told by twelve different narrators. It is often difficult for a first time novelist to hold to one voice, and twelve is just too many. Some of the voices are much stronger than others. When McGill writes from the point of view of a young man who has gone off to England to study, the narrative fairly crackles. When he tries the point of view of a Croatian orphan child adopted by a lesbian couple, he doesn't come close to pulling it off. One of the chapters is from the point of view of a tiger who lives on a local game farm. Such a difficult task is slightly beyond McGill's present abilities. The man who is charged with Alice's murder has a nasty secret but it has nothing to do with Alice Pederson. Some of the characters are well done: a girl who works in a variety store and has settled for marrying the loutish owner of the store, and a female insurance investigator who escaped the town, only to be sent back to investigate Alice's disappearance. A long chapter about a very strange man-child who spends his life collecting items from other people's garbage, is mildly interesting but might be better suited to another novel. A bigger problem is that roughly halfway through the book I guessed the "big secret." It was Ibsen who said "If you put a revolver in a drawer in Act 1 you must use it in Act 3. This was an entertaining read, a very promising novel that just doesn't quite come together. But watch out for Robert McGill if he continues to write novels.

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