Synopses & Reviews
In this tightly plotted yet mind- expanding debut novel, an unlikely detective, armed only with an umbrella and a singular handbook, must untangle a string of crimes committed in and through peoples dreams
In an unnamed city always slick with rain, Charles Unwin toils as a clerk at a huge, imperious detective agency. All he knows about solving mysteries comes from the reports hes filed for the illustrious detective Travis Sivart. When Sivart goes missing and his supervisor turns up murdered, Unwin is suddenly promoted to detective, a rank for which he lacks both the skills and the stomach. His only guidance comes from his new assistant, who would be perfect if she werent so sleepy, and from the pithy yet profound Manual of Detection (think The Art of War as told to Damon Runyon).
Unwin mounts his search for Sivart, but is soon framed for murder, pursued by goons and gunmen, and confounded by the infamous femme fatale Cleo Greenwood. Meanwhile, strange and troubling questions proliferate: why does the mummy at the Municipal Museum have modern- day dental work? Where have all the citys alarm clocks gone? Why is Unwins copy of the manual missing Chapter 18?
When he discovers that Sivarts greatest cases including the Three Deaths of Colonel Baker and the Man Who Stole November 12thwere solved incorrectly, Unwin must enter the dreams of a murdered man and face a criminal mastermind bent on total control of a slumbering city.
The Manual of Detection will draw comparison to every work of imaginative fiction that ever blew a readers mindfrom Carlos Ruiz Zafón to Jorge Luis Borges, from The Big Sleep to The Yiddish Policemans Union. But, ultimately, it defies comparison; it is a brilliantly conceived, meticulously realized novel that will change what you think about how you think.
"Set in an unnamed city, Berry's ambitious debut reverberates with echoes of Kafka and Paul Auster. Charles Unwin, a clerk who's toiled for years for the Pinkerton-like Agency, has meticulously catalogued the legendary cases of sleuth Travis Sivart. When Sivart disappears, Unwin, who's inexplicably promoted to the rank of detective, goes in search of him. While exploring the upper reaches of the Agency's labyrinthine headquarters, the paper pusher stumbles on a corpse. Aided by a narcoleptic assistant, he enters a surreal landscape where all the alarm clocks have been stolen. In the course of his inquiries, Unwin is shattered to realize that some of Sivart's greatest triumphs were empty ones, that his hero didn't always come up with the correct solution. Even if the intriguing conceit doesn't fully work, this cerebral novel, with its sly winks at traditional whodunits and inspired portrait of the bureaucratic and paranoid Agency, will appeal to mystery readers and nongenre fans alike." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Bryan Burrough has long been one of this nations best storytellers, but he has outdone himself with his tour de force, The Big Rich
. Set amid the rough and tumble of the Texas oil fields and stretching to the halls of political power in Washington, this epic tale reveals the hidden undercurrents of modern American history that flowed from four families of unimaginable wealth and recklessness. With an unerring eye for detail, Burrough dissects their lives and histories, starting with the patriarchsstruggling, poorly educated men who might have remained forever unknown if not for their success at pulling black ooze from the ground. The Big Rich
lays bare their arrogance and aspirations, their principles and hypocrisy, their daring and foolishness, taking readers deep inside a world of affluence that has remained secret for far too long. It is, quite simply, a triumph.
Kurt Eichenwald, author of The Informant and Conspiracy of Fools
"Looking at the stacks of mystery titles in the airport, a friend of mine said, 'I think they've solved 'em all.' I couldn’t help but think that he was right, in some visceral way; no matter how convoluted the crime, no matter how unlikely the twist, few readers will be genuinely surprised by the mystery's solution. Mystery writers, understanding this, seem to adopt one of three approaches. First: rely on the pleasure of formula and familiarity, presenting a heroic detective doggedly searching for the novel's final page. Second: displace the genre's conventions, placing the sleuth in unusual settings or situations. Third: treat the genre as literature of exhaustion, the detective's drive for truth being no match for the problem of existence. In his debut novel, The Manual of Detection
, Jedediah Berry deftly samples all three of these approaches to a charming, if slightly cartoonish, effect." Nick Bredie, Rain Taxi
(read the entire Rain Taxi review
In this tightly plotted debut novel, an unlikely detective, armed only with an umbrella and a singular handbook, must untangle a string of crimes committed in and through people's dreams.
"This debut novel weaves the kind of mannered fantasy that might result if Wes Anderson were to adapt Kafka." - -The New Yorker
Reminiscent of imaginative fiction from Jorge Luis Borges to Jasper Fforde yet dazzlingly original, The Manual of Detection marks the debut of a prodigious young talent. Charles Unwin toils as a clerk at a huge, imperious detective agency located in an unnamed city always slick with rain. When Travis Sivart, the agency's most illustrious detective, is murdered, Unwin is suddenly promoted and must embark on an utterly bizarre quest for the missing investigator that leads him into the darkest corners of his soaking, somnolent city. What ensues is a noir fantasy of exquisite craftsmanship, as taut as it is mind- blowing, that draws readers into a dream world that will change what they think about how they think.
About the Author
Jedediah Berry holds an M.F.A. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and has been published in Best New American Voices 2008 (his story was described by Kirkus Reviews as a mordant, gripping fantasy) as well as in literary magazines and online fiction sites. By day, he is an assistant editor at Small Beer Press in Easthampton, Massachusetts.