Friday, January 2, 2015

Walking the Labyrinth by Lisa Goldstein

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: December 22, 2014

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.

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I was sold on Lisa Goldstein's Walking the Labyrinth the moment I read the description. A vaudeville inspired mystery sounded original and intriguing so I felt pretty optimist when I settled down and cracked it open. Unfortunately the execution left much to be desired and I soon found myself struggling through the narrative for little more than the personal satisfaction of reaching the final page.

My troubles began early on. John and Molly's fast friendship didn't hold water, but to add insult to injury, the couple were so one dimensional that I couldn't bring myself to care about either them or their plight. Goldstein's supporting cast is similarly underdeveloped, with many possessed of purpose so insignificant that I often wondered at their being included at all. The irregular timeline complicated matters as individuals could appear or disappear without introduction or farewell which is something I personally found both irritating and awkward.

More than that, however, Goldstein failed to adequately mask the secrets at the heart of the story and expects the audience to jump at the blatantly obvious. Take for example the moment in which John makes 'all a lie' from the Allalie. He is presented as something of a genius, while Molly issues a gasp of surprised awe over the revelation of her own family name. I contributed an exasperated eye roll to the scene for I'd deciphered this shallowly disguised contrivance from the get-go and couldn't understand why it'd taken the leads a full third of the novel to make the same discovery. I wasn't impressed, but the instance was only the beginning as subsequent chapters proved equally if not more self-evident and uninspired.

Bottom line, Walking the Labyrinth didn't work for me. The idea had potential, but it is never realized.

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One proof, however, I am prepared to give, and that is the ineluctable fact of our magick. We of the OotL are able to create and destroy, to bind and to loose, to bend the world to our will. There is no other order in all of Britain, I daresay in all the world, that is able to do this. Our guides in the spirit realm, revealed to us by our guide upon this Earth, Miss Emily Wethers, have shown us miracles that no man can deny: we have all seen them. We alone hold the wisdom that has descended to us through the ages.
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