Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Manual of Detection

The Manual of Detection
Jedediah Berry

"Lest details be mistaken for clues, note that Mr. Charles Unwin, lifetime resident of this city, rode his bicycle to work every day."  Thus begins The Manual of Detection, the story of an accidental detective, the Agency that employs him, and criminals who are almost always more than they appear.  As Unwin sets out on a quest to find his missing detective, he finds himself hampered by both the detective's longtime nemesis Enoch Hoffman and agents of his own ever-watchful Agency.  As Unwin learns more, he discovers that there is far more happening in his city than he ever expected.

The Manual of Detection is extremely difficult to describe or categorize.  Perhaps an absurdist film noir, or a surreal mystery, but in any case, the story is unique.  It could hardly be anything else, in a world with cases like The Oldest Murdered Man, The Three Deaths of Colonel Baker, and The Man Who Stole November Twelfth.  Elements such as the Travels-No-More Carnival and the use of Dream Detection were clever and intriguing, while the absurdity of Agency policy was often brilliantly funny.  The use of dreams had a little of an Inception-esque feel, though with less action.

On that note, the story was somewhat slow-paced at times, and through the middle of the book I felt as though I was slogging through only because of those unusual elements.  By the end it picked up a little more, and I was pleased by the way the story wrapped up.  Overall, I recommend it, if only because it's so unusual.

Plot: 3 cupcakes
Characters: 3 cupcakes
Style: 4 cupcakes
Overall: 3 cupcakes

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