The Medici Mirror is Melissa Bailey’s debut novel and it’s a mix of historical and contemporary literary fiction with a ghostly aspect thrown in. She connects these three styles with a mirror, an object that holds great significance to each aspect of the story.
When main character Johnny Carter, an architect is asked to redesign an abandoned Victorian shoe factory he finds a hidden room. The discovery quickly becomes sinister and the story takes you through a maze of historical intrigue and ghostly goings on.
Using a mirror as a starting point brings a whole load of mythology and atmosphere with it. The twisted distortion of our own reflections and the ideas of a different self are explored expertly and the room itself makes you feel uncomfortable and on edge whenever it’s described.
The historical elements about Catherine De Medici and the sixteenth century mirror are the most interesting parts of the book. The account of ‘the black queen’ is stronger than the modern day narrative, which lacked some substance up to what was obviously a well-researched story line of the book.
One of the problems with the modern day narrative is that the main character of Johnny isn’t very fleshed out, the only time you get any emotional connection with him is when he’s having sexual encounters and it’s not enough to make him a likable well-rounded character. One thing that really put me off Johnny was his fascination with feet. The foot fetish aspect of this book really creeped me out, in fact the quantity of descriptions about feet and shoes didn’t even seem to serve a purpose, it was just to emphasise the location. That being said however, I found the exploration of female and male sexuality throughout the different plot strands quite interesting and it gave another layer to the story that you don’t often get with a story of this style.
The Medici Mirror is a dark book that explores the themes of revenge, jealousy, betrayal, death, yearning, vulnerability and love. As a debut novel it’s a strong well-rounded book and if you’re a fan of ghost stories it’s well worth a read.