It all starts, as these things sometimes do, with a dead man.
He was a neighbour, not someone Abby knew well, but still, finding a body when you only came over to borrow a tin of tomatoes, that comes as a bit of a shock. At least, it should.
And now she can’t shake the feeling that if she hadn’t gone into Simon’s flat, if she’d had her Wednesday night instead, then none of what happened next would have happened.
And she would never have met Melody Black…
The Mirror World of Melody Black reminds me of films that look good on the trailers, but prove to be a bit of a disappointment at the cinema. The intrigue of the ‘mirror world,’ together with the synopsis, makes the novel feel as though it sits within the realms of fantasy, or at the very least, magic realism. It doesn’t. Nor does it hold any element of detective fiction, mystery or thriller. This disjointed element is reflected in the plot, which jumps from one unrelated event to the next, leaving the novel feeling poorly structured and lacking direction. We later learn the cause of Abby’s actions, and are given context of a biographical nature in Extence’s Further Reading at the end of the book. This, I feel, could be beneficial as some form of preface, in particular for readers unaware of the signs and conditions of bipolar disorder. As it stands, it appears as an apologetic explanation to a weakly structured plot, rather than making the reader aware of how Abby’s mental condition is reflected in the writing.
Without knowing where this novel seemed to be headed (going from the discovery of a dead body, to meeting with an evolutionary psychologist before a girly shopping trip), I’d long since lost interest by the time I’d reached chapter ten. I can’t, however, put it all down to plot alone.
As protagonists go, I found Abby difficult to engage with from the start. I couldn’t relate to her, and disliked the constant need to smoke, which seemed to be her coping mechanism for every situation, not to mention as replacement for food. Her boyfriend, Beck, I felt to be a little underdeveloped as a character, and the insight into his own thoughts and feelings later in the novel was a case of ‘too little, too late.’ I did find the chapters that focussed on Abby’s relationship with her sister and parents to be more engaging than the main plot, but these weren’t developed as much as I’d have liked. Incidentally the character I found most interesting, poet Miranda Frost, was used as little more than a plot device, and given minimal attention throughout the whole novel. And of course I can’t discuss characters without mentioning the title character herself, Melody Black. I found it odd that a character worthy of the title should exist in no more than five of the twenty seven chapters, and all within the second half of the book. The ‘mirror world’ concept wasn’t hers, and in itself, experienced a more fleeting prominence within the novel than Miranda Frost had.
Ultimately I found this novel a struggle to get through. I had no emotional connection with the characters, and found the plot plodding and unengaging. I feel so much more could have been achieved with this if written with a magic realism approach, but instead, it fell short of its potential.