The Hidden Man

The Hidden Man by Anthony Flacco. Sometimes you know right away that a book just isn’t right for you. Twenty pages into Flacco’s mystery set in 1915 San Francisco and featuring homicide detective Randall Blackburn and his adopted children, Shane and Vignette Nightingale, I was ready to put it down and return to the medieval world. However, as a Bay Area native, I am continually searching for HM stories set in the region, so I continued and discovered a plot that wasn’t half bad. Blackburn is pressured by his captain into acting as bodyguard for J.D. Duncan, the brilliant mesmerist. Duncan is the showcase act of the Pan-Pacific International Exposition, the grand event reintroducing the city to the world after the 1906 earthquake and fires. Duncan is a paranoid drug addict fighting Alzheimer’s disease, but his fears are not unfounded as there is a non-descript man trailing his every move and seeking his downfall. However, the subplot involving the power struggle between Vignette and Blackburn’s fiancée was uninteresting and did little to move the story or characters forward.

Whenever possible, I try to read a series from its beginning. Despite the fact that this is only the second book in the series, I felt lost as to the background of the principal characters and their interrelationships. Perhaps reading the first book would have helped, especially if it explained how Blackburn’s manipulative fiancée entered the scene. The major failing here is something I’ve written about in the past. I hate it when authors extensively describe their characters’ internal thoughts and self-analysis and this book is full of just that type of non-action. Finally, I believe Flacco made an honest effort to capture the city scene, but the limited number of locations used in the plot hampered his success.

On the positive side, Flacco adds an interesting essay on the nature of historical fiction as an addendum to the book and I was most impressed with the cover design by Henry Sene Yee.

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