In 1924, two brothers both loved Eleanor Raines, a promising young actress from the East End of London. She disappeared during the filming of Alfred Hitchcock’s debut, Number 13, which itself is now lost. It was the crime of the age, capturing the imagination of the city: the beautiful actress never seen again, and the gangster who disappeared the same day. Generations have passed. Everyone involved is long dead. But even now their dark, twisted secret threatens to tear the city apart. Joshua Raines is about to enter a world of macabre beauty, of glittering celluloid and the silver screen, of illusion and deception, of impossibly old gangsters and the fiendish creatures they command, and most frighteningly of all, of genuine magic. He is about to enter Glass Town.
The generations-old obsession with Eleanor Raines’s unsolved case is about to become his obsession, handed down father-to-son through his bloodline like some unwanted inheritance. But first he needs to bury his grandfather and absorb the implications of the confession in his hand, a letter from one of the brothers, Isaiah, claiming to have seen the missing actress. The woman in the red dress hadn’t aged a day, no matter that it was 1994 and she’d been gone seventy years. Long buried secrets cannot stay secrets forever. Hidden places cannot stay hidden forever. The magic that destroyed one of the most brutal families in London’s dark history is finally failing, and Joshua Raines is about to discover that everything he dared dream of, everything he has ever feared, is waiting for him in Glass Town.
What We Thought:
Glass Town by Steven Savile mixes three things I enjoy, science fiction, movie history and crime drama. He does a great job combining all three into a solid narrative with twists and turns and an ending that works.
I’m not sure how much of the Alfred Hitchcock elements are true or at loosely based on non-fiction. I tried looking up Eleanor Raines, but nothing comes up. Maybe there was a young actress that disappeared suspiciously and Savile just went with it. Even if it’s all made up, it still works and is a great plot device. As a Doctor Who fan, I can actually see something like this being an episode just like the episode involving William Shakespeare. Glass Town and worlds within worlds, layers hidden in plain sight are definitely very Whovian.
But even if you aren’t a fan of Doctor Who or know much about 1920s movie history, you can still appreciate the drama of the book. Take away the science fiction and movie angle and you are left with a classic story of family and love. It’s your “If I can’t have her, neither can you” storyline. Family drama makes for great secrets and blood lines will hold grudges for decades. You understand why Josh’s great-grandfather and grandfather got caught up in the mystery of the disappearance and you also understand why that mystery went from man to man because of the family involved. It’s always about women or money and for the Lockwood/Raines family, it was about both.
There are so many elements that work well in the book. There is nothing overly special about Josh. He doesn’t know about his family’s past or that he was even part of a crime family. He knows nothing about his family’s obsession or the disappearance. He’s an easy protagonist to root for. The setting of a not so safe area of London adds to the crime drama as well. The cops and locals know the Lockwood name and because of that you get dirty cops and respect. There isn’t too much in the book that doesn’t work to move the story forward and every little bit pays off for the reader. I wasn’t sure how Seth was getting in and out without repercussions, but Savile answers it late in the book and it makes sense. It all adds up in the end.
I’m not familiar with Steven Savile’s work, but I liked his style in Glass Town. The story has so much to it that I personally enjoy so I read through the book rather quickly. If you know his work or like a good science fiction based crime drama, I definitely recommend Glass Town.