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Thursday 2 June 2022

‘The Mirror Game’ by Guy Gardner

Published by The Book Guild,
28 January 2022.
ISBN: 978-1-91447101-8 (PB)

Harry Lark served as a soldier during the First World War, worked for a short time as a private investigator, and is now a journalist, making the best of a middle of the road job.  He is a complicated man, living in complicated times and, like so many of his contemporaries, bears the physical and emotional scars of battle.  Unable to escape bad memories, he has gradually become addicted to laudanum, but the medication that began as a blessing is now a curse that grips and shames him.  Still, he consoles himself with the fact that he has some good friends and when one of them, Lady Charlotte Carlisle, asks him for help, he agrees to turn detective again.

The story begins in a café when Lady Carlisle sees someone she recognises as Captain Adrian Harcourt.  But how can that be? The young man was reported as missing in action, presumed dead, towards the end of the Great War.  Moreover, the man she sees is unkempt and looks like he has been sleeping rough.  Surely, if it was the man she knew as Adrian he would have been reunited with his father, not to mention Ferderica her daughter to whom he was engaged.  Unable to put the matter from her mind, Lady Carlisle asks Lark to search for the lamented and long-lost captain.

Lark decides to employ the talents of an old pal and retired police officer, Bob Clements.  Almost immediately the two men begin to realise that events around what happened to Captain Harcourt and his soldiers have been obscured.  The question is, was this by accident or design?  The War Office have declared the case closed, but Lark and Clements think differently.  When they begin to pursue a series of tenuous leads, it is not long before more tragedy strikes.  It soon becomes apparent to Lark that everyone connected to the missing captain, himself included, may be in jeopardy.  

Guy Gardner has created an intriguing set of characters and deftly interspersed them within a plot that twists and turns through a series of unexpected, often shocking, discoveries.  The novel reflects how the horrors of war can distract from crimes both on the battlefield and within non-combatant populations.  The synthesis of military and civilian perfidy camouflages the realities behind a series of heart-breaking events that threaten to destroy the lives of the main characters.  Lark, Clements, Lady Carlisle and Ferderica are betrayed by those whose motives are mixed, and whose integrity cannot be trusted. 

The Mirror Game is pacy and gripping.  It thrills and intrigues, describes the uncertain times of the interwar years and even includes a pair of “star-cross’d lovers.”  What more could one ask for?  A great read.

Reviewer: Dot Marshall-Gent

Guy Gardner is a professional jazz pianist and has played both at home and around Europe in venues such as The National Theatre, Pizza Express Soho, the 02 and The Royal Albert Hall. Having earned his degree in Music at Dartington College of Arts, he went on to gain a PGCE in teaching, which he used to teach in a prison for a time. Currently, he combines his writing with teaching piano in Dorset, where he lives with his wife, two young sons and dog. He is working on two more novels.

Dot Marshall-Gent worked in the emergency services for twenty years first as a police officer, then as a paramedic and finally as a fire control officer before graduating from King’s College, London as a teacher of English in her mid-forties.  She completed a M.A. in Special and Inclusive Education at the Institute of Education, London and now teaches part-time and writes mainly about educational issues.  Dot sings jazz and country music and plays guitar, banjo and piano as well as being addicted to reading mystery and crime fiction.  

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