(Bantam, $21.00, 321 pages, hardcover; published in March 2005.)
In her novel The Mysteries, Lisa Tuttle mines the same folkloric vein as did Susanna Clarke for Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: the faerie legends of Great Britain. As in Clarke's novel, gone are the Tolkienesque, Arthurian, and Disneyesque trappings of generic fantasy. Tuttle delves into those terrifying primal regions where the mysteries of the world infect the human imagination.
Ian Kennedy, Tuttle's protagonist, is a US expatriate living in London. When Ian was nine, his father disappeared suddenly. Since then, he has been obsessed with unexplained vanishings, an interest that eventually led to a career as a private investigator specializing in missing persons.
Years ago, Ian's first case brought him to the UK, where he settled. Now, he embarks on a new case that possesses disquieting echoes of that first case -- both cases leading, impossibly, to the realms of myth and faerie.
Tuttle's novel is drenched in the mysteries of the vanished, both historical and personal. Ian's life is perforated by succession of disappearances; his mind swims in a sea of loss and mystery, and the text reflects his state of mind, gently pushing readers along the current of his thoughts, emotions, and changes.
There are other mysteries to which the title subtly alludes. Tuttle presents "others" as ultimately unknowable. No matter how deeply Ian investigates, he will never truly understand anyone else. This deep isolation is made perhaps even more emphasized when the novel shows the perhaps unbridgeable gap between genders.
Many stories come together to compose the whole of The Mysteries, and each of them is a mystery in its own right. Together, they create a rich and evocative portrait of the impossible yet essential quest to understand the other lives that confer meaning to our own existence.
Claude Lalumière's Fantastic Fiction
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© Claude Lalumière 18 June 2005, 29 October 2005