The Girl in the Glass
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The Girl in the Glass

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  403 ratings  ·  73 reviews
The Great Depression has bound a nation in despair -- and only a privileged few have risen above it: the exorbitantly wealthy ... and the hucksters who feed upon them. Diego, a seventeen-year-old illegal Mexican immigrant, owes his salvation to master grifter Thomas Schell. Together with Schell's gruff and powerful partner, they sail comfortably through hard times, scammin...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published August 16th 2005 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published August 1st 2005)
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Community Reviews

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Sarah
I read my first Ford short story online a few months ago, followed by a couple that I found in anthologies. A few weeks ago I followed that up with one of his story collections, followed immediately by this novel. I thought the stories were excellent, but they did not prepare me for this lovely novel. The prose feels effortless, which takes a lot of effort on the author's part.
The book is set on Long Island in the 1930s, and the setting feels authentic. The characters are well developed and fee...more
David
For such a slim novel, Jeffrey Ford’s ‘The Girl in the Glass’ packs a mean punch with it’s depression set account of hucksters, freaks and bootleggers as well as being a ghost story, a coming of age tale and an expose of the background that led to the rise of eugenics in the early part of the 20th century.

The novel follows Thomas Schell, a fake medium and his assistants, Diego, an illegal Mexican immigrant who poses as Ondoo, the Hindu Mystic, and Anthony Cleopatra, a sometimes chauffeur and str...more
Rick
In Jeffrey Ford's The Girl in the Glass, reality is a con, at least according to illegal Mexican immigrant Diego, his foster father Thomas Schell, and ex-circus strongman Antony Cleopatra. In 1932 Long Island, this diverse trio of confidence men pose as a team of spiritual mediums. Their marks are the city's naive wealthy. During a séance, the group's leader, Schell, experiences a ghastly vision of a murdered young girl, and even though it could destroy their livelihood, he decides to use their...more
Will Byrnes
Set in Depression New York, mostly Long Island, a group of scam artists exploits the sorrow and foolishness of the rich, pretending to speak to the “other side” so that they might communicate with departed loved ones. All is well until the chief of the operation sees what may be a real ghost, that of a missing child. There are fun characters, untroubled by excessive complexity, plenty of action sequences, a slight bit of payload re the scams, and what seemed to me a strained attempt to fill this...more
Becky
Aug 07, 2008 Becky rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
Jeffrey Ford is a genius. One of the best writers alive today. I can't say it enough!

The Girl in the Glass takes place in Depression-era New York, where con man Schell and his team (teenaged illegal Mexican immigrant Diego and strongman Antony Cleopatra) make a living bilking the "true believer" rich folks to want to make contact with the dead.

One night, during a routine seance, Schell unexpectedly sees something he and his team didn't rig up beforehand -- the ghost of a little girl. Schell, wh...more
Timothy Hallinan
This wonderful book was pressed upon me by an employee in one of the bookstores I signed in earlier this year, and many, many thanks are due.

It's a tale set in the 1930s, during the long stupidity of prohibition, about three con artists whose specialty is seances, and their encounter with what just might be a real ghost that, in turn, leads them into exploring a particularly heinous murder. I loved this book, which won an Edgar in 2005 for best paperback original, and promptly went out and boug...more
Rusty
A group of scam artists help a man whose young daughter has disappeared - FREE! Even free help has problens as the group discovers his daughter was murdered and more murders occur. It was such a good read! The author did very nice research including the activity of the Ku Klux Klan in the Long Island area, the role of scam artists and spiritualists during the 1930s, the Repatriotism of Mexicans during the depression and other topics. This story was original and exciting. I commend Jeffrey Ford f...more
Bob Mustin
A friend who had become interested in a genre novel of mine, began singing the praises Ford’s novels, and mostly out of politeness, I decided to download one of his novels as an e-book and give it a read. I’m glad I did.

There’s nothing literarily splendid about Ford’s prose, but then I doubt such was intended. Instead Ford is a spellbinding story teller. His prose, while somewhat generic, flows like butter, and you can’t help but turn page after page. there is a wink and a nod to postmodern sens...more
Morgan
As he has done times before, Jeffrey Ford has captured my attention and my heart. This novel is captivating on all levels. The characters are deep, real, and full of life. The plot is well paced, the themes heartbreaking and hopeful, and the motifs, well, blue morpho? monarch? white pine? anybody? yeah, they are there too.

If you are familiar with Fords work, then you know what to expect. If your not, then you are in for a treat. Ford's words flow like a stream off of the page. He is simple to re...more
Nancy Oakes
I didn't realize when I got this book that it was going to be so incredibly good. I read it all in one sitting, in about 2 and a half hours, without moving from my spot. It's funny, serious and you get a whodunit as well in the bargain.

I'll try to outline this (no spoilers) but you absolutely MUST go read it for yourself. I'm so happy I read it.

This book is set in early 1930s America, during the Depression. To keep himself employed, con man extraordinaire Tom Schell (who is obsessed with butterf...more
Alyse
This book is set in the 20's and 30's about a group of con-men doing "seance" sessions and contacting the "other side." Taking place during the Great Depression, the cons trick their "marks" into believing they truly are receiving messages from passed loved ones, etc. Until they get involved in a con that nearly claims all their lives and puts them on the tracks of a mad scientist doing horrific human experimentation. Solving murder, rescuing friends, romance and tricking the nations wealthiest...more
Jen Phillips
Mar 25, 2007 Jen Phillips rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: mystery, ghost, circus freak and sheister fans
This review explains all the reasons why I loved this book:

Ford's fascinating literary thriller tells the story of an orphan's career as Ondoo, a phony mystic. He is really Diego, a Mexican and part of a trio staging seances for the gullible grieving of Long Island's Gold Coast, where in 1932 you'd never know the Great Depression is raging. Besides whacked-out humor and compelling suspense, there is sentiment among the thieves in the novel, and all those qualities make it hard to put down. After...more
Stevedutch
This is the story of three con men working the rich but gullible in the depression years of 1930s Long Island: it is told through the eyes of seventeen year old Diego who, along with his mentor Schell and sidekick/bodyguard Anthony, provide séances to contact their recently departed loved and not so loved ones. During a routine scam in some millionaire’s mansion Schell actually does see the ‘ghost’ of a girl gone recently missing and puts their ‘normal’ work schedule on hold while he and his two...more
Oscar
Año 1932, en plena Depresión. Los pobres son más pobres y los ricos más ricos. Muchos de estos ricos están interesados en el mundo espiritual, en contactar con sus seres queridos en el más allá. Y aquí entran en juego Shell (timador ingenioso donde los haya), Anthony Cleopatra (guardaespaldas, chófer y trabajos varios) y Diego, nuestro joven protagonista y narrador de los hechos muchos años después, un mexicano de diecisiete años que acogió Shell como discípulo. Durante una de estas sesiones-tim...more
Stephanie
3.5--This story sucked me right in. The story is told by Diego, a 17-year-old illegal Mexican immigrant, in 1932 New York. He works with two other con men (Schell and Antony), holding seances for (and at the expense of) grieving wealthy clients. Then, during one of these seances, Schell (the boss) sees the image of a girl in a pane of glass. A supenseful page-turner. I would have given it a 4, except 1)Antony's favorite swear word, while no doubt accurately used, got a little tiresome after a wh...more
Kendra
Jan 10, 2009 Kendra rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: guys-guys
Recommended to Kendra by: Jonathan Carroll by way of his review on the back cover
Another book set in Depression-era America. Though the characters are so difficult to relate to in any sense of my known world, that I can barely find hints of it in the book!

That being said, for a book about con men, it's actually a decent storyline centered around the Eugenics Record Office's potential links to the KKK and the like. (It is hypothesized that Hitler's memorandum, of sorts, was adopted in the U.S. through this office's underground experimentation.)

I didn't dislike the characters,...more
E
Jun 01, 2008 E rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: folks wanting a light, colorful read
This would be a great beach read and make a good movie, with its circus-like cast of characters, colorful plot, and setting in New York & environs in the 1930s with seances, aristocrats, and bootleggers to boot. Following a kind of "don't bullshit a bullshitter" plot, things turn serious for the main male threesome when one of their mendacious seance productions brings them into contact with the reflection of a "girl in the glass" who turns out to have been murdered, sending them on a who-du...more
Gerri Leen
Oh, how to rate this one? The meat of the story, the main ride, is just utterly delightful. Sort of Damon Runyon-esque, sort of The Sting, all very fun and very touching and at times scary. But the meat of this is bookended by both a start that never is addressed again and an ending that left me saying, "I went through all that for THIS?" If I were going to make this perfect, I'd say, skip the first bit (if you tend to be like me, and remember set-ups and wait for them to be fulfilled or at leas...more
Jennifer
1932 Long Island. 3 con men hold séances for rich folks: Schell, the leader; Diego, a 17 year old Mexican and narrator of the story who poses as Odoo, the Indian Mystic; and Antony, the big man, body guard and chauffeur. All is great in their world until during a séance, Schell sees the image of a girl in a pane of glass. The next day, he sees a photo of the same girl in the paper: she’s gone missing. The three set out to find her and get drawn into a very tangled web indeed. Throw in moths, the...more
Maria
Thoroughly enjoyable. I figured out the ending early but it still kept my attention. Will read more from this author.
Zorena
Even though Ford seems to be known more as fantasy writer I would definitely label this a mystery and it's a decent one at that. There are interesting characters and the mystery itself starts you turning the pages faster.

Unfortunately Ford seemed to forget what a wonderful plot he was weaving and gave a fairly lame ending to what could have been a much better book. I really didn't feel satisfied and that could be due to the authors lack of any good descriptive prose.

It was good enough for me to...more
Stephanie
I'll give this a 3 plus! Not the greatest book out there, but I admit that it held my interest and kept me quickly turning pages. It's set during the depression, and the main characters are con artists who make money holding "seances" for the rich. It develops into a mystery and a coming of age novel of sorts, and though there are holes in the plot it's fun to see how it all comes together. My favorite parts were the descriptions of the cons, and Ford does a good job getting inside the inner wor...more
Barbara
The novelist's talent lies in creating genuine, warm characters that we relate to (and, in some cases, react to) like the orphan Diego, who narrates this amusing ghost story about psychic swindlers who may or may not have seen an actual ghost, which leads them into the world of the KKK in Long Island. The novel is set in Depression-era New York, and it's obvious from the detail that the author did his homework (also check out the bibliography at the end where he names his sources). All in all, a...more
Lizzie
A mediocre mystery set in the 30s. Con men who put on phony séances for rich people get involved in solving a murder. It's a lively story but lightweight – they don't talk right for the period, and the characters aren't well drawn. Plus there are various cliché characters – the strong man with a heart of gold, the orphan who's been adopted by a quirky con man. It's just a standard grade C mystery. I realized it fooled me because it's a trade paperback. If it were pocket book size, I'd never have...more
Susan E
I bought this book after a friend raved about the author (and on her recommendation of this novel). It started a bit slow for me, yet I came to appreciate the level of detail Ford uses. The characters were quirky and likeable, the setting intriguing and the story line ran along in a satisfying way. I wanted more of a sense of the era, though... there were times when I felt the story could have taken place in the present day. A good mix of premise fiction that felt realistic.
MeinKampfy
a "don't bullshit a bullshitter" adventure involving staged seances, grifters, circus freaks, immigrants, and the Eugenics Research Organisation on Long Island, NY, all set in the the Depression-Prohibition-era America. fun, Indiana Jones-meets-The Mentalist-like Hollywood characters (think Dr. Jones and Shortstop) and plot with some interesting factual elements, but essentially shallow and very predictable.
Mike Ehlers
Interesting con man story and a look at the supposed supernatural world. Ford's writing made the depression era and the characters come to life. The author certainly does his homework and makes the setting convincing, digging into areas I don't normally think of when reading about the depression. The story was good, but the writing is what really carries the reader through.
Michelle
I am reading it now and am on the 50th page of this 285 page book and I love it so far. I cant put it down because I want to know what is going to happen. The book is very differnt and interesting characters. Whimsical and fun. With the characters, you feel like you are right there by the way the author tells the story. Can't wait to finish it and tell you more.
Pamela Lloyd
I enjoyed this book which seamlessly works elements of subtle fantasy, a story about a good deed done by con artists, spiritualism, lepidopterology, immigration, eugenics, and racism into a novel set during the Great Depression.

This was the first thing I'd read by Jefferey Ford, but I'll be looking for more of his work.
Mary
I was expecting more of a ghost story, for some reason, and what I got was a feel-good, rollicking adventure with a zany cast of characters, including circus freaks and a by-golly Evil Mad Scientist--yowzah! What the heck, I'm at the beach. Sun, sand, surf, and an entertaining, unintellectual novel--vacation at its finest.
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Endicott Mythic F...: The Girl in the Glass: A Novel - Q&A with Jeffrey Ford 8 24 Aug 02, 2010 09:04PM  
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Jeffrey Ford is an American writer in the Fantastic genre tradition, although his works have spanned genres including Fantasy, Science Fiction and Mystery. His work is characterized by a sweeping imaginative power, humor, literary allusion, and a fascination with tales told within tales. He is a graduate of the State University of New York at Binghamton, where he studied with the novelist John Gar...more
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“To our benefit, death isn't affected by an economic failure, and it never takes a holiday. In addition, a bereaved rich man is easier to con than a poor one in the same condition. A poor man, straightaway, understands death to be inevitable, but it takes a rich man some time to see that the end can't be circumvented with the application of enough collateral.” 6 likes
“He was a good con man, but not a great con man. He wasn't ruthless enough. He had all the tricks, all the techniques, the facility for it. That part if you'll excuse the expression, was in his blood. But he never really had the heart for it.” 5 likes
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