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Eight Detectives: The Sunday Times Crime Book of the Month

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The novel is ¾ made up by these short stories...and dare I say, or write, that they are at best mediocre? Chess is all about rules and symmetry,’ she continued, ‘but conflict is usually just cruel and dirty.’ In Eight Detectives, Alex Pavesi constructs a remarkable puzzle that turns readers into literary detectives with every new twist. Both a celebration and a reinvention of mystery fiction -- Matthew Pearl, bestselling author of The Dante Club This is a case of a blurb promising more than the book delivers. It certainly isn’t “thrilling” (it isn’t even trying to be thrilling) and I also wouldn’t call it “wildly inventive”. The short stories are Agatha Christie-esque, particularly “Trouble on Blue Pearl Island” which is intended as an homage to Christie’s “And Then There Were None”. That was my favorite story because of its diabolical ending. My problem was that the stories weren’t great. Late in the book there is a twist that presents an alternative ending for each story. The new ending didn’t improve any story. Then there is a second twist, and a third one. I think the plot actually had the potential to be clever if the characters had more bite to them. This is not a battle of wits. The characters are more likely to curl up into a fetal position than they are to engage. Also, the short stories could have been better. 3.5 stars

It’s a good setup, but not a unique one. Instead, the first thing that sets The Eighth Detective apart is the structure of the novel. The chapters alternate between the collection’s seven short stories and the conversations between Grant and Julia following each story. The seven stories are clever, old school murder mysteries, and the book only work because each story stands up on its own merits as an entertaining mystery. More importantly, The Eighth Detective is quite unusual because it’s incredibly subversive about the murder mystery/detective genre. Little is as it seems in this novel, and the final third contains numerous earned twists, and no less than two endings that nicely illustrate the book’s theme. This book is about a mathematician who has a long-forgotten book of short mysteries rediscovered by a modern day publisher. Through their discussions, we learn he has a mathematical theory about the structure of mysteries. We also see that he may be dropping clues about a larger motive for writing these stories. This is a book within a book, and within both stories the reader is given a bunch of theories and clues to figure out. Some of the time I felt like I was reading Agatha Christie and other times I was put in mind of the Encyclopedia Brown books I loved as a kid. All the stories culminate in a larger mystery to solve. The structure of the book is unlike anything I’ve read before and I can’t imagine how tough it must have been to create.

Then – we are about five-sixths of the way through the book – a new style of chapter heading begins a complete reconsideration of everything that has gone before, including the stories we have read. This is where I started to think “I didn’t see that coming”. And that is where I stop before giving away any spoiler bar this one: from then on it was not just once that I thought “I didn’t see that coming”. Henry strummed the guitar as a way of changing the subject. ‘Do you know how to tune this thing?’ He’d found it hanging on the wall above his chair. ‘I could play this if it was tuned.’ This is a short story collection inside a novel. “The Eighth Detective” is about a book editor who wants to publish an obscure novel of short story mysteries. The obscure novel was written by a mathematician who intends to prove that all mysteries follow a mathematical formula. This mathematician, McAllister, had written a research paper entitled “The Permutations of Detective Fiction” stating that specific criteria must be adhered to for a murder mystery. For example, there is the whole set of characters; the subsets are: victim(s), suspects (must be at least 2), a killer(s), and detective(s). The permutations of the different elements are multiple(and yes a victim can solve their own murder and be a detective). For instance, more than one character in the book finds a dead body (or bodies) and never bothers to call the police. Instead, they proceed to investigate the crime themselves. Moreover there's an instance of police brutality that's over the top for me.

Julia wants to sit with the author to revisit the stories and convince him to republish his book. Julia Hart the editor wants to understand why the author is hiding from his past.Julia realizes she is the 8th detective to dig out another mystery and find out the secrets that Grant kept.

Terrific. Alex Pavesi knows the genre inside out. One of the year's most entertaining crime novels Sunday Times, Crime Book of the Month As Julia and McAllister discuss each of these tales, it's clear the editor has an agenda. She thinks McAllister killed a woman called Elizabeth White decades ago, a crime the press dubbed the 'White Murder.' Furthermore, Julia thinks McAllister left clues about this in his stories....which she tries to winkle out. Thus, it's a bit of a cat and mouse game between Julia and McAllister, with each one keeping secrets.Has an intricacy rare in modern crime fiction. Alex Pavesi deserves huge applause for his plot, constructed with all the skill of the old masters Sunday Express This book is all about the story, not the characters. If you want characters to bond with, you won’t be happy with this book.

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