This book has some terrific writing, but a storyline that does not match up to it.
To be fair, when I started reading this book I was quickly hooked, and felt that it might even become one of my absolute favourites. Unfortunately, the ending felt rushed, was pretty predictable and let down the book.
Still, it was a worthwhile read. The main character – and the narrator – is William Wilson, a down-on-his-luck conjuror from Glasgow. Hoping to make his fortune, he takes a job in Berlin and ends up recruiting a mysterious American girl named Sylvie as his assistant. The story flicks back and forth between Berlin and Glasgow, as it slowly reveals the dark events that took place in Berlin, and how they have brought William to his present state of despair. To say much more would be to give too much of the story away. However, one minor gripe is that there was a seemingly unnecessary sub-plot regarding a decades old disappearance of a lady, which Wilson ends up becoming embroiled in. The loss of this particular storyline would have not affected the book in any way, although it was in itself not an unenjoyable diversion from the main story.
William was well developed as a character – a man who has fallen on hard times, and hopes that his intelligence and cunning will be able to get him out of it. The other characters were also well developed, even if the story was sometimes a little too incredible to be easily believable.
The real beauty of this book was in the elegant and wonderfully descriptive writing, which was worth taking time to savour.
Overall, while I did feel that the ending was something of an anti climax, this book did raise my interest enough to make me seek out more work by this author.
(Author’s website can be found here.)