The Manual of Detection: A Novel by Jedediah Berry (The Penguin Press, February 19, 2009) 288 pages
Set in an unidentified city, in an unidentified time, (although I vaguely sensed a UK vibe, perhaps because it’s always raining?), The Manual of Detection focuses on Charles Unwin, longtime clerk at the Agency, who is inexplicably promoted to detective and, without training or a word of direction, handed a thin guidebook, The Manual of Detection, and sent into the field — he’s not even told what case he should be working on. He’s given his own office, a secretary, and a pistol. Unwin quickly learns that his new position used to belong to the detective he’s been the sole clerk for for “twenty years, seven months, and some-odd days.” But apparently the Agency’s star detective Travis T. Sivart is missing.
It’s filled with Unwin’s reminiscences of old major cases and a fair dose of action, but this is not your everyday detective story.
Partway through the book, Berry tilts the world on its axis — in a surrealist, Escher-esque? Dada-esque? manner.
It’s not the best book I’ve read this year, but it is interesting, fun, and quick. Witty. Love it.
This is Berry’s debut novel. The book’s flash-based website, which contains an excerpt of the book.