by E.L. Doctorow

this book suffered mightily from me having previously read Caleb Carr’s excellent novel The Alienist. These two books hearken back to roughly the same time and place, and even share a plot structure of a newspaperman’s recollection of a mystery long since solved, but Carr’s story is so much more finely crafted, engaging, and dramatic that The Waterworks fares pretty poorly in comparison.
The disappearance of a freelance writer occasions little notice apart from his editor who embarks on the trail to discover his fate. this leads him through a strange warren of crackpot medicine, social darwinsim, and the quest for eternal youth.
The mystery lacks a certain momentum and urgency. i felt myself skimming pages and still feeling totally capable of grasping exactly what was happening later on. no great surprises in store at the end, and the resolution seemed to linger longer than it needed to.
for all of that Doctorow seems to be a capable enough storyteller with a decent command of language. while i cannot recommend it outright, i think its a fine quick read for someone less picky than myself.
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