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Monday, September 7, 2009

Book Snapshots: "The Manual of Detection" by Jedediah Berry.

The Manual of Detection was not what I expected it would be. The novel was more of a curiosity than a suspenseful read. As I slowly plodded my way through it, intrigued but not really engaged, I wondered whether it was supposed to be a mystery or science fiction. In either case, it is a peculiar story that gave me odd dreams at night, including a dream featuring H.R. Pufnstuf walking a Briard down a street in Grand Case. Yes, it's that kind of book.

The time and location in which The Manual of Detection is set is unknown, but it has a bit of the ambiance of the old 1960s television program, The Avengers. The protagonist, Charles Unwin, is a clerk at a large, mysterious investigative agency that ostensibly works to protect the city from crime. Unwin is promoted after Travis Sivart, a star agency detective, disappears. This promotion is not what Unwin wants, and he seeks to reverse it by tracking down Sivart. Along the way to finding Sivart, Unwin encounters more surreal puzzles: Masses of sleep walking citizens, stolen alarm clocks, and old cases that were thought to have been solved by Sivart found to be solved incorrectly.

Reading The Manual of Detection reminds me a bit of a trip I took years ago to an odd tourist destination in Wisconsin, The House on the Rock: I was glad I went to see it, wished the tour was over well before it was finished, and am lukewarm about recommending a visit by others. Similarly, I'm glad I read The Manual of Detection, but don't insist that you do so.

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