Henry Holt and Co., 304 pages, $26.99 (c2020)
This is the summary of my reaction to “The Eighth Detective”: To quote Arte Johnson, “Veeeery interesting.”
I can see why people are going crazy about this book. There are a few short stories, clever twists, more clever twists, and a gimmick as big and as wide as Texas. Entertainment masquerading as a book. I don’t mean to imply it isn’t well written; Alex Pavesi has to be a master of style and form to have created these stories within a story. Let me explain.
A young woman, Julia, goes to a Greek island and meets Grant, a writer. Julia is an agent representing a publisher. Her company would like to reissue the book Grant wrote more than twenty-five years ago (in maybe the 30s?). “The White Murders” is a collection of seven stories about mysterious deaths. Grant explains he was devising permutations of classic murder mysteries of the time. The factors are victim(s), suspect(s), detective(s). What sort of storytelling could Grant do with that?
In the first story, for example, there is one body and maybe two suspects. Then there are two bodies.
Julia and Grant discuss. Aha, Julia says, there are inconsistences. Did you mean to include them? Yes, says Grant, faulty memory aside – he excuses himself – he did mean to tease his readers.
One dead body over a cliff. Probably one suspect. Maybe one witness.
In both these stories, and the subsequent ones (seven in all), the perpetrator(s) is/are revealed. After each story, Julia and Grant discuss the development. After each case, Julia nitpicks the errors and Grant tries to explain his state of mind.
There actually is a Venn diagram moment towards the end as Grant outlines his thoughts on how he chose his groups of characters.
Then Parvesi gives you the wangdangdoodle of revelations.
You’ll probably like it; a lot of readers and reviewers did. I admired it rather than “liked” it. I know, I’m a curmudgeon.
P.S. There's probably a question you want to ask me. You think there's something I forgot to explain. I'll think about it.