What do you get when you mix an Inspector, a lunatic and a bat (yes…a bat) together? Give up? You get one heck of an awesome story- that’s what! Author M.N. Seeley has penned a unique and excellent piece of literary fiction with his book, A Flicker of Shadows. If you enjoy being transported back in time to a land of intriguing suspense and contrasting realities, then this book is just what you are looking for.
As always, I will attempt to give an appropriate summation of the book without actually giving away too much of the plot. The story is set in the late 19th Century in Eastern Europe. The focal point of the setting is an old castle which really adds to the gothic atmosphere of the tale. Essentially, a grandiose bat named Morton, has decided to escape his current reality and lay claim to this old, abandoned castle all for himself. He will stop at nothing to make this quest be so. Meanwhile, the young Inspector Murnau and a lunatic named Onno appear to be set for an inevitable encounter. What is the common denominator? It is the old castle and a “kingly” bat who will stop at nothing to make his dreams become a reality. What will the result be of this inevitable conflict and impending collision between these divergent realities? The answer could be more horrifying than any of them could have ever imagined.
The question which I pose for the author M.N. Seeley is, “where have you been all this time?” This novel is an imaginative, sophisticated and intricate piece of writing. It is also presented solely in the form of journal entries, letters and interview transcripts. That type of presentation is not my personal favorite and will typically struggle capturing the interest of many readers. It can simply be quite difficult engaging readers in the story by solely using this format. However, that was not the case with this novel. Seeley masters the task of securing reader engagement. When reading this tale, you will soon forget all about the format as the actual story is so intense and full of suspense, that it totally sucks you right in!
There can be little doubt that A Flicker of Shadows is a piece of top quality literary fiction. It has all the required elements, such as in-depth character development and a theme which focuses heavily upon the plight of the human condition. While the story is often quite hilarious, it is nevertheless saturated in tragedy. It is a tragic tale which showcases the author’s unmistakably beautiful writing. It is a long read…but it does not feel that way. That in itself is a sure sign of top notch storytelling. Also, when we are examining works of literary fiction, they must always contain impeccable writing. That is one of the critical elements. While other genre writing may be able to escape with occasional lapses or flaws, this is not the case for literary fiction. This piece meets those very high standards as Seeley’s writing is essentially flawless.
Many authors often struggle with the presentation of story setting. It can be quite challenging to properly describe the setting so it provides a captivating atmosphere, without overplaying the description to the point of tedious boredom. In A Flicker of Shadows, the setting description manages to capture this key balance. It is a shadowy and gothic setting which adds obvious tension and intrigue to the tale. Personally, the vision I had throughout the story was characters immersed in a perpetual fog and gloom. The author capably manages to use his setting to enhance the tragic theme of the novel.
The most critical element of literary fiction is character development. A Flicker of Shadows absolutely does not disappoint in this regard. The 3 main characters evolve progressively throughout the story. All are identifiable and in some way relatable to the reader. My own personal favorite however is absolutely Morton the bat. I find his character to be so pompous and arrogant that as such he is both hilarious and unequivocally tragic at the same time. This tragic component is ingeniously weaved throughout every element of the story, including character development.
All in all. If you are looking for a top piece of quality literary fiction, then you really should give A Flicker of Shadows a read.
5 Gothic Stars for this one!