‘The Reflection’ by Hugo Wilcken – Unmistakably Noir

‘The Reflection’ by Hugo Wilcken   (2015) – 232 pages


‘The Reflection’ has the hard-bitten no-nonsense ambiance of a detective novel even though its main character/narrator is a psychiatrist.  The police in New York City in 1949 use our man’s psychiatric services in order to commit troublemakers to mental institutions.  The police cannot commit someone without the psychiatrist’s written authorization to do so.

We are definitely in strange disturbing noir territory here.

The novel starts out as a straightforward story as the psychiatrist finds out that his ex-wife has died.  This is devastating news to the psychiatrist even though he and she were married only a short time.  She was only in her early thirties at her death.  The psychiatrist himself is only 33.

“After the failure of my marriage, I’d waited for the moment when the pieces would fit together, when I’d know what to make of my life and how to go on.  Somehow that moment never arrived.”

It is the voice of the psychiatrist which drives this story.  He may have been married once when he was young, but now he is living the single New York life.  He lives in a small apartment, does not drive a car.  If he needs to travel, he takes the train.  He goes to the same restaurant every day, orders the same meal.

To say there are some stunning twists and turns here would be an understatement. Shady characters show up, and suspicious events occur. The psychiatrist thinks he is being followed. A bizarre assault, a corrupt policeman, a surreal mental asylum.  One lesson learned – never carry another person’s wallet unless you are willing to assume that person’s total identity.

If you like to watch film-noir crime dramas from the 1940s and early 1950s like I do, you will most likely enjoy ‘The Reflection’.  If you like Hitchcock or Robert Mitchum movies or if you like ‘Double Indemnity’, you will be bowled over by ‘The Reflection.  It’s got that noir feel to it.  I looked up the word ‘noir’ in the dictionary: ‘crime fiction featuring hard-boiled cynical characters and bleak sleazy settings’.  That is an accurate description of ‘The Reflection’.


Grade: A-


9 responses to this post.

  1. I’m a huge fan of film noir dramas from the 1940s and ’50s, so this novel sounds like a good bet for me. I’ll take a closer look – thanks for the review.



  2. This sounds excellent. I’m in the mood for some noir fiction at the moment.



  3. I have an unread Wilcken, but otherwise this is an absolute must for me. I was already aware of it, but I love classic noir so you definitely sell it. Thanks.



  4. I enjoyed this book – but would have liked to engage more with the narrator/protagonist – his own personality was rather submerged – although that is the point. I think I was hoping for a bit more Cary Grant style as in North by Northwest.



    • Hi Annabel,
      I was so impressed with the psychiatrist character in ‘The Reflection’ that I was a bit let down when The Transformation occurred. The ‘after’ person is less interesting than the ‘before’ person. Also I am not sure what the ex-wife dying had to do with the rest of the story.



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