Popular fiction comes and goes. Many of the genre luminaries from twenty years ago are gone from the scene. The best will live on, passed down from generation to generation. Most get lost in the sands of time. Often worthy writers and books are unjustly forgotten.

I believe the work of Catriona Ward will endure. Her books are successful, but they seem timeless. She straddles a fine line between commercial fiction and literary art. For my money Looking Glass Sound is her finest novel to date.

This is a strange book, even by Catriona Ward standards. The novel begins as a straightforward suspense story dealing with three teens in a Northeastern coastal town. I was strongly reminded of Evan Hunter's searing Last Summer.

The first hundred-or-so pages are breathtakingly good. Ward waves a bewitching spell of murder, repressed passion, and mystery. Then things begin to get really weird.

Looking Glass Sound transforms from a conventional narrative to a meta-meta tale of blurred identity, witchcraft, and the powerful magic of writing. The story almost becomes indecipherable, and I think she will lose some readers along the way. It was a struggle for me at one point, but I clung to the story and its beguiling characters. Ward's beautiful prose pulled me back in and kept me entranced until the heartbreaking conclusion.

Catriona Ward writes smart books that demand rigid attention and patience. They are literary Rubik's Cubes, contorting her characters and their plights this way and that. Just when the reader becomes frustrated, Ward clicks the pieces of her stories into place.

Looking Glass Sound celebrates the written word, in all its wonderful and terrible forms. The best fantasists cast spells with words which distort the fabric of our realities. They enchant us, deceive us, transform the world around us. They provide a looking glass in which we see marvels and terrors and magic.

The horror fiction field is rife with hyperbole, but I truly feel that Catriona Ward is one of the best writers we've ever had. Thank God readers are responding to her work.

Written by Mark Sieber

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