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Book Review: Mind The Gap Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon

There are cities in Europe where if you dig down deep enough you find an older version of the city buried beneath the new. Some of them were built on top of the ruins of former Roman cities, while others have literally buried the past under the present. Some of the oldest cities, like London and Rome, are laced beneath the surface with tunnels and catacombs that are the remnants of old sewer systems and temples. Rivers, that once flowed through the centre of town, have over the course of a thousand years gradually wormed their way deep under the skin of the earth to create unseen arteries beneath the feet of today's inhabitants.

Look beneath the surface of any modern city with a subway system and you'll find a second set of tracks, and even some stations, beneath those in everyday use. Some have been designed to be used as training facilities, while others have fallen into disuse from age and safety issues. It's long been supposed that various people wishing to remove themselves from society have made these tunnels into their shelters from the rest of humanity, but they aren't the only ones sheltering beneath our feet.

In the London of Tim Lebbon and Christopher Golden's book, Mind The Gap, the living are joined by spirits from the city's past. They aren't ghosts of specific people, instead they are physical manifestations of history; shades and shadows that reflect all who have ever lived within the confines of London's boundaries.
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Jasmine Towne, known to her few friends and her mom as Jazz, discovers the existence of both they physical and spectral beings beneath the city on the day she is forced to flee the over world in fear for her life. It turns out Jazz's mom hadn't just been paranoid when she had instilled in her daughter the idea she should never trust anybody, and that she should always listen to any inner voice that warned her of danger. It's listening to that voice that saves her life the day that her mom was murdered by the mysteries men whom Jazz has called her "Uncles" all her life.

Fleeing from them she dashes into a London subway station - The Underground - and in a desperate attempt to lose her pursuers she jumps on the tracks and dashes into a tunnel. It's here that she stumbles upon the hidden world beneath the city's streets. Among the physical beings she is sheltered by the Fagan like Harry Fowler who provides a home for a flock of teenaged petty thieves and pick-pockets. After telling them her story, she is accepted among them and is delighted to discover that she has an affinity for the "work" they do to survive. She's quickly accepted into the "family", who call themselves the United Kingdom.

But even underground she can't escape the men who killed her mother, and they track her to the United Kingdom's lair, where one of her new friends is killed and Harry is brutally beaten. Jazz only escapes because it seems like the city itself comes to her rescue. Early on Jazz had discovered that she had a certain affinity for the spirits that allowed her not only to see, but to hear them as well. Every so often the built up emotions of all the spirits living underground gather together to form a wind that screams with sound of their anguish. Although horrible because of her friend's murder, it's because of the attack on her and her friends that Jazz finds out the secret about her Uncles, and what was behind the murder of her mother.

Harry, and everybody else in the "United Kingdom, including Jazz, want to exact revenge on those who killed their friend. When they discover that the mayor of London has made promises in the press to clean up "those nest of rats that live beneath the streets of our fair city", Harry concocts a plan to rob people he knows to be friends of the mayor. It's on the second of these jobs that Jazz interrupts Terence as he's robbing the same house. She also discovers a photo of all her Uncles in this house; a photo that was taken by Harry Fowler; a photo in which she recognizes the face of her father staring back at her.

What's the mysterious connection that ties her father, Terence, The Uncles, and Harry all together? If Jazz wants to live she is going to have to find out. The answer, when she finds out, is as amazing as it fantastical, and results in Jazz's whole world being changed. Yet like everything else about this story it makes perfect sense for the world that the authors have created for Jazz's story to take place in. The majority of the people in Mind The Gap, and the majority of the locations for that matter, are the same as they are in our version of the world, yet running like a small stream through it all is a sliver of magic.

Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon have created a world in Mind The Gap where magic is alive and well, but so are cellular phones. It's this mixture that makes the story so effective, for it is far easier for us as readers to suspend our disbelief when there are so many things we can identify with in a story. They act like anchors that help us to hold on when the magic in the story starts to blossom.

Yet what really makes this story work is the wonderful job they have done in creating the characters. We see the world through the eyes of Jazz, and from the moment we enter into her head until we leave her at the end of the story everything she does is perfectly normal within the context that the authors have created for her. From the first moment we meet her Jazz is a completely believable character, and because we believe in her - its easy for us to accept the rest of the characters as well.

Mind The Gap is part fantasy, part mystery, and part suspense story, and the authors have done a great job in balancing the three elements and braiding them together into one exciting read. You can buy a copy of Mind The Gap directly from Random House Canada or through an on line retailer like Amazon Canada.

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