cover image Girl in the Glass

Girl in the Glass

Jeffrey Ford, . . Morrow, $23.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-06-621127-5

A band of con artists–cum–spiritual mediums focus their psychic and sleuthing powers on a murder mystery in Ford's offbeat, thoroughly researched fifth novel (The Physiognomy ; The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque ; etc.), set in Depression-era Long Island, on the posh North Shore. Diego, a 17-year-old Mexican illegal immigrant, narrates the escapades, as he follows his mentor and surrogate father Thomas Schell, who rescued him from the street and tutored him in subjects from English to chicanery. Disguised as a Hindu swami, Diego helps Schell conduct phony séances to bilk wealthy Long Islanders. But when Schell sees the apparition of a young girl during a séance and then hears of the disappearance of Charlotte Barnes, daughter of shipping magnate Harold Barnes, he determines to solve the case. Schell and Diego—along with henchman Antony and phony psychic Morgan Shaw—find Charlotte's dead body covered by a cloth painted with a Ku Klux Klan symbol. They link her murder, along with those of several other dead children, both to the Klan and to a nefarious Dr. Greaves, aka Fenton Agarias, who headed up grotesque eugenics experiments. Though Ford's efforts to evoke the period occasionally strike a twee note, he's crafted an engaging read. Agent, Howard Morhaim. (Aug.)