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The Mirror Thief Summary & Study Guide Description
The Mirror Thief Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:
The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: Seay, Martin. The Mirror Thief. Melville House, 2016. First Printing.
The dying Stanley Glass is the narrator of The Mirror Thief, although he does not reveal himself to be the narrator until the final chapter. The majority of the narrative is presented in third-person limited, with the perspective aligning with the central character’s thoughts and emotions. The sections in Las Vegas focus on Curtis, the sections in Italy focus on Crivano, and the sections in Venice Beach focus on Stanley as a teenager. However, the narrative inexplicably breaks into second person at least once in every storyline, usually with the imperative: “Picture him there.” Upon first reading, these sudden shifts in perspective are disruptive and unresolved. Once the narrator is identified, the shifts in perspective suddenly make sense, but the action of the story is called into question. With the knowledge that the entire story is presented from Stanley’s perspective, the reader is left to decide between a metaphorical or literal interpretation of his words.
The novel is bookended by the same scene – Stanley’s final moments of life. He waits in a hotel room in Venice, Italy for Damon, who is on his way to kill him. He has devised a code that allows him to see the big picture, and he has dedicated his life to discovering a hidden world of secret knowledge. In the first chapter, his reasoning is nonsensical and mysterious; by the end of the book, his thought process does not seem so far fetched.
The novel is subdivided into seven sections. The first and fourth sections focus on Curtis in Las Vegas, the second and fifth sections focus on the teenage Stanley in Venice Beach, and the third and sixth sections focus on Crivano in Italy. The narrative is structured as a story within a story within a story. It begins with Curtis’s mission in Las Vegas to track down Stanley. When he finds The Mirror Thief, Stanley’s favorite book, the narrative shifts to tell the story of Stanley as a teenager. Teenage Stanley is obsessed with finding the author of his favorite book, and when he finally meets him, he discovers that the main character of the book may have been a real person – Crivano. At this point, the narrative dives into the poem itself to tell the story of Crivano. The narrative shifts back to Curtis, teenage Stanley, and Crivano once more in the subsequent sections. The final section of the novel ties all of the storylines together.
Curtis Stone is given vague instructions to track down Stanley Glass in Las Vegas. He has just retired from the military as a policeman, and Damon Blackburn, an acquaintance of his, offers him a job opportunity on the condition that he can locate Stanley. Damon tells Curtis that Stanley walked out on a loan and owes him money. Curtis accepts Damon’s story even though it does not seem plausible. Curtis leaves Philadelphia without telling his wife, Danielle, where he is going. When he arrives in Las Vegas, he encounters several other people who are involved in Damon’s scheme and who are also looking for Stanley – Albedo, Argos, Veronica, and Kagami. As he navigates the city and questions these characters, Curtis realizes that there is much more to the story. He discovers that Stanley did not skip out on a marker, but that he helped organize the most elaborate casino heist in history. He learns that Stanley has become gravely ill, and Curtis is put under intense pressure to find him. Veronica, Stanley’s girlfriend, turns out to be particularly helpful once she begins to trust Curtis. She provides backstory on Stanley and lets Curtis barrow The Mirror Thief, Stanley’s favorite book. Curtis tries to read the book as Stanley would in order to anticipate where he might be.
Curtis becomes consumed by his search for Stanley and repeatedly puts himself in danger. Argos summons Curtis to the desert to speak to him where they will not be overheard. Curtis demands that he tell his side of the story, and Argos explains how he managed a heist of his own while Damon was preoccupied with the other plan. Argos had the help of a crooked dealer, whose body washed up in a fisherman’s net a few months later. Curtis instructs his father to call the New Jersey State Police after he discovers this information, which sends Albedo into a frenzy. Curtis discovers that Albedo and Argos are working together, and Albedo turns on him. Curtis manages to create a diversion by telling Albedo that they must meet Stanley at the airport rather than waiting for him at the hotel. Curtis jumps out of Albedo’s car just before it rolls into oncoming traffic, killing Albedo and sending Curtis to the emergency room – after he catches a bullet.
The sections that take place in Venice Beach focus on an adolescent Stanley who has recently arrived on the West Coast. He slowly traveled across the country all the way from Brooklyn in order to track down Adrian Welles, the author of The Mirror Thief. Stanley and his boyfriend, Claudio, embark on several missions together to follow clues that will lead them to Welles. They have a nomadic lifestyle and have set up a makeshift home in an abandoned, boarded up shop. They get by on Stanley’s winnings from conning people with card tricks, and from whatever Stanley manages to steal from the local stores.
Stanley and Claudio have an argument that causes Claudio to run away. When Stanley finally finds him, Claudio is sitting on a bench with a man named Charlie who is clearly drunk. Annoyed, Stanley approaches them to convince Claudio to come home. After a confusing exchange, Charlie tells them that he is a poet. Stanley asks him if he knows Adrian Welles, and Charlie tells him to go to a coffee shop where the local poets gather. Stanley and Claudio visit this coffee house and meet several influential writers and artists. Stanley happens to notice a ginger-bearded man who he assumes is Welles, and he follows him to the beach. Stanley confronts the man and confirms his identity. Once Welles regains composure, he and Stanley have an in-depth conversation about The Mirror Thief. He tries to clarify a few points, but Stanley is left feeling disappointed. Welles suggests that Crivano, the central character of the poem, may have been a real person, and Stanley is stunned. He becomes obsessed with learning as much as he can about Crivano.
Stanley and Claudio begin spending more time with some of the poets they met at the coffee house, including Alex and Lyn, a married couple. Stanley sells drugs to them and visits their house fairly often. Stanley and Claudio visit Adrian Welles’s home, where they meet his wife, Synnove, and Cynthia, a girl who is staying with them. Stanley has another conversation with Welles about his writing that is ultimately unsatisfactory. Claudio is badly beaten by the Shoreline Dogs, a local gang, few days later. Stanley brings Claudio to Welles’s house since it is nearby, and leaves Claudio in their care while he goes back to their squat to pack a bag for him. Welles and Synnove take Claudio to the hospital. While they are gone, Stanley breaks into their home to inspect a locked door that he noticed during his first visit. He manages to unlock it and discovers a secret chamber that is half-laboratory, half-bedroom, with a large mirror suspended over the bed. Stanley begins to lose faith in Welles and wonders how he could have written such a powerful book. As he leaves their house, he has a frightening hallucination of Welles and his dog, and he wonders if he has been interacting with the real Welles or an imposter.
The sections set in Italy in the sixteenth century focus on Crivano, the enigmatic alchemist. The hesenki sultan instructed Crivano to recruit mirrormakers from Murano. He needs both a glassmaker and a silverer. Crivano forms a deal with Serena, a well-known glassmaker, to create a frame for a mirror. He meets with Serena at the Salamander and learns that Verzelin created the flawless mirror. Verzelin is at a nearby table and keeps having violent outbursts. Serena indicates that Verzelin may be mad, but this is common with silverers. Serena gives him a sealed letter. After Crivano finalizes the deal with Serena, he follows Verzelin and lures him to a boat where Obizzo is waiting. Crivano tries to convince Verzelin to come with them, but Verzelin panics and immediately recognizes Obizzo. Crivano kills Verzelin and hides his body in the hull of the ship. He instructs Obizzo to put the body in the water at San Nicolo.
Crivano takes refuge at the White Eagle, where he first meets Tristao. He delivers Serena’s letter and learns about the Nolan’s work. When he departs the White Eagle, he walks to an apothecary, where he has prearranged a meeting with Narkis. He slips his report of recent events to Narkis while they are in the shop. He soon travels to Senator Contarini’s palace, where he meets Perina, his long-lost relative. He also sees della Porta’s presentation on the camera obscura. Crivano has a long conversation with Contarini and learns that the senator arranged for him to meet Perina. He tells Crivano that Perina had a brother named Gabriel who died at Lepanto before she was born, and Crivano faints.
Crivano travels to the Morosini house, where the Nolan is giving a speech. Tristao gives him a strongbox of coins with instructions to deliver it to Serena. After he returns from the Morosini house, he visits Ciotti’s bookstore along with Narkis. Ciotti gives them a translation assignment from Arabic to Latin. The two men begin speaking in Arabic in order to conceal their plans to transport the craftsmen. Crivano travels to Serena’s shop to deliver the coins and pick up the mirror. Serena seems wary of Crivano and skeptical of his plans.
When Crivano departs Serena’s shop, he decides to visit Perina at her convent. After some convincing, the gatekeeper nun agrees. He talks with Perina about Lepanto, but he does not reveal that he is actually her brother. He returns to the White Eagle and gives the mirror to Anzolo, the innkeeper, with instructions to deliver it to the Morosini house in the morning. When he returns downstairs the next morning, Crivano is ambushed and discovers that the sbirri have been watching him for quite some time. They know about Verzelin’s murder, and Crivano fears that his plan could unravel at any moment.
Crivano hides a message on a scroll behind the curtain in his room with instructions. He sends several linkboys to various destinations with the same message: “Look behind the curtain,” in order to confuse any sbirri who might be following him. The right message is intended for Anzolo, the innkeeper. He meets with Narkis and devises a new plan. He returns to the White Eagle and confirms that Anzolo got his message. A servant girl recoils in fear when she sees Crivano and says he looks like a figure that was just here – the plaguedoctor. Crivano leaves and heads toward the shore to meet Obizzo. He battles several sbirri along the way, and Perina shows up to fight alongside him. With her help, Crivano is able to fight the plaguedoctor.
Crivano wakes up at the New Ghetto, where he has a deep conversation with Tristao. He learns that Narkis has died. Even though Tristao is conducting controversial experiments, has managed to avoid the sbirri’s scrutiny. Crivano has another poignant conversation with Perina about Lepanto. In his recollections, he reveals to the reader that he cast aside his true identity after the battle. Vettor Crivano, The Lark, was killed at Lepanto. When his friend died, Gabriel Glissenti burned his own identification papers and kept Crivano’s. From that day forward, he would be known as Crivano.
As Stanley contemplates his final moments in the conclusion, he leaves the reader wondering whether he really has found a way to pass through the mirror, or if he has made up this entire story.
This section contains 2,063 words
(approx. 6 pages at 400 words per page)