Written by Gordon Snider
Published by Helm Publishing
I review a lot of books. As you know if you’re reading this, Dread Central covers the world of horror. Books, in particular, present a challenge: It’s often difficult to judge just how much “horror” there is to a particular book when presented a basic synopsis and deciding whether or not to review it.
We have one case here where things have gone sideways.
Gordon Snider’s The Hypnotist (not to be confused with the popular Lars Keplar novel that’s being made into a film) is marketed as the tale of Marta Baldwin, a forward-thinking young heiress in 1906 San Francisco. While engaged in her duties of charity in Chinatown, she runs across a hypnotist with incredible powers. He can entrance a woman in a matter of seconds, controlling her will entirely. He then sells the women to the mighty Tongs for forced prostitution. Somehow, she breaks his spell and escapes, starting a battle between them surrounding the events of the great earthquake of that year.
The problem is this: The hypnotist is almost a sub-plot. This is really the tale of Marta Baldwin, her loves and trials, her romantic entanglements and financial fortunes. The hypnotist is an important plot element, but you could excise him entirely and still have a workable story of life and love before and during the events of the great earthquake.
It’s a lost opportunity. The hypnotist’s powers are clearly supernatural, as he speaks words no one can understand that “voices in his head” dictate to him. Those powers are disrupted by a charm Marta wears, retrieved from the Orient by her late father.
None of that is ever explained. The whole hypnotist plot is so unimportant that no exposition is seen as necessary. We never find out how he works his magic, never discover the source of the charm and its protective abilities. However, we discover – at length – each and every detail of Marta’s financial entanglements and her comings and goings in upper-class San Francisco society.
So sorry, folks, this one is a historical romance masquerading as a tale of a psycopath hypnotist stealing women away to white slavery. I will admit it’s a decent historical romance; just don’t sign up expecting a tense thriller as Marta and the hypnotist match wits in the dark alleys of Chinatown. That’s not the focal point of the book, and that’s the only part I would care about.
Note, then, that this rating reflects the interest of this reviewer and yours, gentle reader (you sick bastard), in the book and not the quality of the book itself.
1 1/2 out of 5