The Bottom Line: An epic supernatural spy thriller that may be the first entry in a blockbuster franchise. Highly recommended.
The Mirror Man is the tale of two men, Julian Black and Sebastian Blaine, whose supernatural powers are manifested through touch. When Julian holds someone’s hand, he accesses some of their most intimate, and often traumatic, memories. Alternately, Sebastian’s touch enables him to delete his victims’ memories with frightening precision.
As The Mirror Man begins, Julian, an agoraphobic video gamer who lives with his mother, gathers the courage to approach the police with information about a local road rage killing. In doing so, he seems destined to become a promising psychic detective. But his journey is interrupted when Sebastian, an international playboy who pulls off spectacular heists for a criminal syndicate, is tasked with obtaining the plans for a technology that could give American and British governments a sizable military advantage. Soon, Sebastian is compelled to capture Julian – an act that has global security implications as well as shocking personal impact for both men.
In many ways, The Mirror Man reads both as a superhero origin story and a coming of age tale. In addition to his powers, which are compelling enough on their own, it’s the minor, character-driven decisions author J.B. Manas graces him with that will endear him to audiences. Having lived out his fantasies in video games, Julian’s extreme aversion to human interaction – he even wears gloves everywhere he goes – is an endearing challenge that pays dividends as the plot unfolds. As the first act unfolds, readers may find themselves rooting for online pal Cassie or Philly detective Lela Mars to become his first love interest.
The story clearly belongs to Julian, but antagonist Sebastian often steals the show, as he does in the diamond heist that serves as the novel’s first scene. The vignette is highly cinematic, down to the clever twist that enables Sebastian and his crew to walk away uncaptured without betrayal or mutiny in their ranks. Throughout, fans of vintage James Bond will appreciate Sebastian’s disarming flair and charisma, as well as the book’s ample nods to Ian Fleming’s criminal organization SPECTRE and cold war spy drama.
Adding to the book’s charm is the way that The Mirror Man manages to feel urgent and contemporary without resorting to the over-the-top graphic violence and gore that has become so pervasive. That’s rare among thrillers today, and should earn the book wide readership.