Mirrors of Anguish by R.P. Kraul
I got an eBook copy of Mirrors of Anguish by R.P. Kraul for free from Amazon. I saw some solid action on twitter mentioning it so I figured I would give it a try even though it isn’t in my usual range of genres.
Mirrors of Anguish, furthermore known as MoA for the purposes of this review, centers around the town of Belcorte, Pennsylvania where a series of killings has taken place over the course of many years with the killer still on the loose. Jill Duport, the main character of MoA, inherits her grandfather’s infamous house there after the passing of her mother. Apparently a murder had taken place in the house, supposedly committed by her grandfather, on a teenage girl. Though the former chief of police Reed Hobson had not only come across the supposed killer, but had even killed him, there is no record of the event ever taking place. The killer, a madman known as the Indianhead Reservoir Killer, waits in the shadows until he can exact his revenge for a crime committed against him long ago.
If you couldn’t tell from the description this book is rather…odd. To be honest I am having a hard time putting my reaction into words, but I’ll give it a go. Mirrors of Anguish starts out strong with Jill losing her mother and us being acquainted with her father as he tries to convince her to move into the house her grandfather left her in Belcorte. We then learn a bit about Reed the former police chief of Belcorte who seems to be fixated on the series of killings going on in the area despite having retired. We also get our first glimpse of Eddie Jarvings, the county commissioner who wants Jill to pack up her bags and go back to where she came from not wanting any more questions about the killings coming his way.
Unfortunately, it is early on that the first strike on this book occurs. Here is an excerpt from MoA: “Eddie rocked in his chair as he chewed his nails. He spit out a fingernail before he responded. Eddie, an educated man from an acclaimed family, possessed the insufferable habit of chewing his nails.” You find out on the previous page that Eddie is the son of the wealthiest and most influential man in Campton County, Nikolaus Jarvings, so the “acclaimed family” part is a bit redundant. Furthermore, we can tell from the first two sentences that he has the habit of chewing on his nails, you don’t need to add that he “possessed the insufferable habit of chewing his nails” because you aren’t adding anything we don’t already know. Moving on.
Strike two has multiple examples within and I won’t bore you with them all but suffice it to say Jill apparently can’t make up her mind about anything. Throughout MoA she says or thinks one thing and then does the exact opposite almost immediately. At one point in the book she is furious at her dad for telling her some unwelcome information, I won’t say what exactly to avoid spoilers, and then the next day she is immediately forgiving him and proclaiming that he’s the best dad in the world. Jill as the main character frustrated me a great deal with her constant flip-flopping, I imagine this was done most of the time to move the story along, but it made everything she was supposedly feeling seem disingenuous.
Strike three happens about midway in the book and takes us back to strike one where the author told us something we already knew as if we couldn’t have picked up on it without the repetition. In this case it was the following excerpt: “Quentin managed a grin. The educated voice, words pronounced carefully, contrasted with his bad teeth—an ironic combination. Ironic that a fellow could be educated to this extent and still have crooked teeth. Maybe he pretended to be educated.” So here we have us being initially told something was ironic rather than allowing the reader to infer it for themselves. To further exacerbate the situation we are told EXACTLY how this was ironic. What is perhaps, if it is possible, more annoying still is that this combination isn’t ironic at all as plenty of educated people have crooked teeth. However, strikes one through three are not why I will be giving MoA the rating that follows as much as the final strike.
Strike four encompasses the length of the book from the point the horror begins until the very end. The point of view is shifted from Jill’s to multiple other characters which includes Reed as well as the killer. Without going into details that could spoil the book I will say there are some sections of this part of the book where you get flashbacks into the killer’s life. Now plenty of books change from one character’s point of view to another, but in this case it is not done smoothly or in a way where you can ease yourself into the new frame of mind. The jumps between characters are sporadic and often, especially with the flashbacks, very difficult to wrap your head around to discern what exactly is going on. By the time you get near the end of the book your mind is tired and mostly confused about what has transpired, and the ending is just as hard to interpret as we only get a glimpse of what Jill’s life might be like without much detail.
I wanted to get into Mirrors of Anguish, and I really tried to, but because of the various issues I had with the book I felt disconnected from the characters. Jill’s constant flip-flopping made it so I didn’t care for the most part what happened to her, I felt that I was just reading a description of horrifying events rather than being pulled into the story and feeling what the characters felt. If all you are looking for is a bit of horror and some gruesome violence then I suppose MoA might fit for you. I wanted to like this but it felt short for me.
Recommendation: Borrow it from a friend if you are going to read it otherwise I would pass.