Book review: The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry

Hmmm, I’m not sure about this one. Charles Unwin is a clerk in a detective agency. When a lead investigator goes missing, Unwin finds himself leading the search. He is aided by the Manual of Detection, with the mysterious ‘Chapter 18’ missing and a sprinkling of characters who are clearly moulded from the detective genre. Some are sly and secretive, others are henchman or masterminds. What will our hero do? So far, intriguing. The story shows promise – who doesn’t like a good mystery? – but when Unwin starts to delve into the darker recesses of his surroundings, the story begins to dip, the pace becomes a little choppy, and the hard work put into making the beginning so strong begins to unravel somewhat. That said, the writing deftly weaves the characters’ charming little quirks, and the city they inhabit, into a surreal landscape, and then again into an eerie dreamscape. Better as a novella? Possibly. Odd, surreal and intriguing in equal measure.