Saturday, April 09, 2011

Review: The Manual of Detection, by Jedediah Berry

This is a modern book: 2009. I beg your pardon. I mean, this book was written recently, but it will be around for a long while. If you're another who loves old books and classic literature, don't worry; I think you're going to enjoy this a lot.

Its roots are deep, and they reach into more than one place. In the acknowledgments the author says, "This book is dedicated to my mother, Maureen Berry Bliss, who is always looking for a good mystery."

Yes, it's a mystery. An elegant, intricate, noir-infused puzzler. It also reaches into science fiction, and fantasy; urban faerie, in a way. When you read it, you will probably find categories of your own. You'll probably find them because its author didn't limit himself to the painstaking categories that Charles Unwin (good name; you'll like it more once you're reading) once found completely necessary to a correct life.

Mr. Unwin is a clerk in an unnamed city. This city has echoes of Manhattan, New England, even, to my mind, San Francisco and upstate New York. It's a real city where the scent of the subway rises to your nostrils and the people who populate it go about their various businesses carefully ignoring the bustle--or quiet--surrounding them.

Charles's job has been his life for years, until he sees the woman in the plaid coat.

Then it begins...a whirlwind, inexplicable week or so of the impossible...or is it impossible?

The realities turn sideways, no one is the person he or she is supposed to be, and Charles finds the world upside down. In his efforts to right it and return to his safe, comfortable niche he finds more impossible things before next breakfast than Alice ever dreamed of finding out.

I'll leave it at that. I could not possibly explain it properly, even if I wanted to spoil it for you. Not only can Jed Berry weave a fascinating plot and strangely real people into an unreal but possible place, his writing is superb.

Treat yourself to a copy, mete it out carefully, in smallish doses, so it doesn't run out too quickly, and enjoy.

No comments: