Like The Night Whiskey, The Girl in the Glass, by Jeffrey Ford has plenty of darkness, but it’s a far more pleasant ride along some of the stranger undercurrents of the Great Depression. Our hero is Diego, a clever and resourceful Mexican immigrant who masquerades as the mysterious Hindu swami Ondoo. His adoptive father and mentor, Schell, rescued him as a boy and protects him from being repatriated. Together with their strong man, Antony Cleopatra, they make a living holding seances for the wealthy denizens of the North Shore of Long Island. Then Schell sees the image of a girl in a glass door pane.
The image appears to be the missing daughter of rich man. Schell volunteers his services to find her, and as he assembles his lovable band of freak show denizens and con men, the story gets darker and weirder. The dark elements, like the Klan and eugenics, are convincingly evil, but the story piles on so much weirdness, it verges on silliness.
Along the way, you learn fascinating and terrible things about the period, some of which are mentioned in this post about how much fun Jeffrey Ford had doing the research. When a book is so well researched, it’s an extra plus to find a listing of sources at the end. But then, I think more fiction ought to offer bibliographies, especially science fiction and fantasy. Except this book isn’t exactly fantasy; it’s the sort of book fantasy readers will like. Does that make it slipstream?