The remarkable thing comparing my reviews of Millstone City (by S.P. Bailey, 2012) and City of Brick and Shadow (by Tim Wirkus, 2014) is how differently directed my attention was and yet how many similarities the reviews (and their books) still share.
Let’s start with the obvious. Both novels have “city” in the title. Both novels take place in Brazil’s slums. Both novels feature horrific criminal activity. Both novels incorporate missionaries breaking rules, though managing to keep their deviance remarkably nontransgressive. Both sets of missionaries maintain an interest in fulfilling their call to preach even in the least agreeable of situations. Both adventures begin thanks to a link to the criminal world via a local convert. Both novels address the reality of evil and fail to provide a purely pat ending.
Thematically however, the novels are quite different. City of Brick and Shadow is focused on truth and uncertainty, while Millstone City cares more about good and evil.
Their relationship to the genre is also different. Millstone City is much more concerned with solving the mystery, for instance. And its villains, while grand, are not mythic.
One significant difference between the reviews is my stance. For Millstone City I wrote a review of a novel prepublication with the idea that I would post the review as-is upon its release, and they could use the review promotionally before that time. To my surprise, the publisher also used the review as editorial notes, changing the title and altering the novel’s conclusion in response to my comments. I initially left the review unchanged, with a note, but ultimately, that note eventually grew until it replaced the final portion of the review. I’m still not sure what the most ethical solution was.
City of Brick and Shadow, on the other hand, came out of nowhere. I heard of it, requested a copy, received one, and my review was untouched by thoughts of the novel being as yet unpublished.
Because of their respective publishers, I reviewed Millstone City as a novel in the Mormon marketplace and City of Brick and Shadow as a novel in the national marketplace. Even though I suspect either publisher would have been happy to publish the other’s find. Both books have plenty of crossover potential.
In both reviews, I compared the novels to other work, but how would these works compare to each novel? (Note: this method is scientifically rigorous and a paper will be placed in American Literature as soon as the patent paperwork is filed.)
City of God
The Spy Who Came Out from the Cold
City of Glass
The Colorado Kid
Mr White’s Confession
Most interesting, perhaps: two more city-in-the-title works to think about.
The most important question in 2015 however, now that both books are in the marketplace, is this: Are these novels redundant?
It’s a fair questions. Two novels published within three years of each other about missionaries in Brazil bouncing against the criminal element—not hard to imagine publishers and marketers assuming redundancy.
But if that’s the most important question, then here’s the most important answer: No.
Now, I’m not suggesting we’re seeing the necessary beginning of a wildly diverse missionaries-in-Brazil-bouncing-against-the-criminal-element subgenre within Mystery/Thriller, but these two novels argue we have not tapped the possibilities.
So. What are you looking for? (Note: I’m selling this one to Amazon. Bezos is sending a lawyer over Friday.)
“literary” fun and games
traditional mystery elements
commentary on Mormon culture
commentary on American/international Mormon relations
issues of faith/doubt
ease of sharing with friends, Mormon or not