Catie's Reviews > The Manual of Detection

The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry
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's review
Mar 21, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: mystery-thriller-noir, read-in-2011, fantasy
Read from March 21 to 23, 2011

I’ve had this on my bookshelf for quite a while. It’s easily the most visually striking book that I own, but still I managed to avoid picking it up. This is one that’s hard to classify – or maybe I just don’t have much experience with the “genre.” It’s part surrealist dream caper, part hardboiled detective novel, with a dash of witty humor and some commentary on extremism just for good measure. So yeah, this book has a lot going on, but it all somehow fits together with total precision.

The unwitting hero is Charles Unwin, a clerk of the mysterious “Agency.” He has spent the past twenty years keeping meticulous records for the Agency’s star detective, the palindromically named (no, that’s not a real word) Travis T. Sivart. Due to the Agency’s rigorous staff segregation rules, Unwin and Sivart have never met. When Sivart seems to be losing his passion for the job, Unwin likewise contemplates leaving. Until he notices a lonely woman in a plaid raincoat at the train station, Sivart goes missing, and he is inexplicably and suddenly promoted to detective. Unwilling to accept that the promotion is not in error, he sets out to find Detective Sivart and restore him to the role.

The writing is tight and neat; there are no wasted words here. Everything in this book seems crucial, like a clue that you have to keep track of. And yet, the world that he creates is completely expansive and enveloping. Even the cover design (one of the most representative covers I’ve ever come across) and the chapter layout and headings support the surreal ambience of this book. I literally felt like I was holding the Manual of Detection. The humor is silly and light, but the suspense is edgy and intense. The eerie dream visuals are so vivid and totally unsettling.

The one thing that held me back from giving this one five stars at first was the lack of emotional connection. I didn’t quite see what the point of all of this was…until the ending, when he hit me with the big reveal. I totally had that chills/tingly sinuses/watery eyes/shortness of breath thing going on. He totally got me. So, here you go…five stars.
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Quotes Catie Liked

Jedediah Berry
“The world is unkind to the shoeless and frolicsome.”
Jedediah Berry, The Manual of Detection

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