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  • Mandy McHugh

The Forger's Daughter, Bradford Morrow: A Review

I'm a big fan of counterfeit mysteries. Art, money, artifacts--whatever the heist, doesn't matter, because it will inevitably hold my attention. So after reading the blurb, I couldn't wait to dive into this one.

Will, an ex-literary forger spending the summer in his farm house in the Hudson Valley, finds his routine in upheaval when an old acquaintance accosts his daughter with a parcel and a mission: recreate a copy of a rare Edgar Allan Poe book, Tamarlane, or risk having a secret revealed. He'll need his daughter's help to complete the task, though, and he has to decide if involving her is worth the danger. For me, this book started off on a strong note. I loved the incident with the daughter on the road; it set up the potential creep factor perfectly, and I was invested in the mystery man. Will's character has so many traits that should work in his favor: smart, rebellious, plagued by his past yet determined to give his daughters a normal life without the con artist ramifications. I love Poe, so Tamarlane and the history of his writing was also fascinating. What fell short of my expectations, however, was twofold. One, the characters felt a bit muddled. They all share similar diction and delivery styles, somewhere on the border of academic and sarcastic. Two, this read more like a dramatic piece than a novel. For all the suspenseful elements, most of the action happens off-camera. Dead bodies, intrigue, past violence--none of it happens in real time while we're reading, rather we're told about it by characters who then analyze the events leading up to and the fallout of whichever action has just occurred. Because of this, the narrative is pretty much divided half and half between deep introspection and elevated dialogue. So while there are several interesting things occurring outside the immediate mystery, we don't see any of it in media res. I will say that Bradford's writing reminded me of reading a Poe story. The narrator's had the distinct voice of both being aware they're telling a story but not aware they have an audience. I also appreciated the insight into literary forging. Learning about the stylistic writing differences, ink hues, letters, and other markers authenticators look for was such a cool part of this story. As an upstate New Yorker, I have close ties to the Saratoga region where Poe allegedly edited The Raven, and it's always fun seeing the hometown references. I just wanted more in terms of the mystery. Overall, The Forger's Daughter is a quiet, reflective mystery focused on transitions and life choices. I'd recommend to fans of Poe or anyone interested in literary forging. Big thanks to Mysterious Press and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.

 

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