Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Eighth Detective

Rate this book
There are rules for murder mysteries. There must be a victim. A suspect. A detective. The rest is just shuffling the sequence. Expanding the permutations. Grant McAllister, a professor of mathematics, once sat down and worked them all out – calculating the different orders and possibilities of a mystery into seven perfect detective stories he quietly published. But that was thirty years ago. Now Grant lives in seclusion on a remote Mediterranean island, counting the rest of his days.

Until Julia Hart, a sharp, ambitious editor knocks on his door. Julia wishes to republish his book, and together they must revisit those old stories: an author hiding from his past, and an editor, keen to understand it.

But there are things in the stories that don’t add up. Inconsistencies left by Grant that a sharp-eyed editor begins to suspect are more than mistakes. They may be clues, and Julia finds herself with a mystery of her own to solve.

304 pages, Hardcover

First published August 4, 2020

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Alex Pavesi

4 books209 followers
Alex Pavesi lives in London, where he writes full time. He previously worked as a software engineer and before that obtained a PhD in Mathematics. He enjoys puzzles, long walks and recreational lock picking. The Eighth Detective is his first book.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
2,567 (16%)
4 stars
5,439 (35%)
3 stars
5,037 (33%)
2 stars
1,700 (11%)
1 star
483 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,435 reviews
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,199 reviews40.7k followers
January 4, 2021
This is FAN-TAS-TIC!

7 different murder stories with Christie-esque vibes, smart mind games, a grotesque, claustrophobic, extremely witty world building and high tension, slow burn mystery with more than one twists and shocking ending(s)

A murder needs: victim-perpetrator and a detective! Julie Hart is sharp minded, extremely smart editor who can easily read the messages hidden behind the lines and her detail oriented mind helps her to extract the secret essence of the stories and discrepancies as well. When she was volunteered to meet with the author of “White Murders: Grant McAllsiter, professor of mathematics ,has been living an isolated life in a remote village of Mediterranean, she wanted to learn about the writing process of the book and the author’s background story which affect him to create them. She was so excited to convince him to republish the book. But she finds the author a little tight lipped and reluctant to give more clues about the creation process of 7 detective stories and all those stories have inconsistencies which are easily caught by Julie.

Did Grant put them intentionally to test the readers’ focus or does he have a hidden agenda to connect with those stories with real life murder?

Julia realizes she is the 8th detective to dig out another mystery and find out the secrets that Grant kept.

When I read those stories I felt like there were missing pieces about them but I happily got my answers. Especially the last conversation of the characters and two endings startled me!

This is unique, phenomenal, so smart, complex, challenging, mind blowing debut author! I could only clap and raise my glass to Alex Pavesi who is such a brilliant author and I cannot wait to read his upcoming works in near future.

If you like old school detective stories meet complex/twisty/ whodunit plays, this is amazing combination for your needs. Please read it and send me thank you notes and cupcakes for showing your appreciation to my recommendation. It only took my four hours to finish it and even though I cannot feel my legs and I’m starving, it is worth for the pain. I truly enjoyed it!

Special thanks to NetGalley and Henry Holt and Co. for sharing this incredible ARC with me in exchange my honest review.
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,603 reviews24.8k followers
July 18, 2020
Alex Pavesi writes a fascinating, smart and imaginative novel that examines and analyses the murder mystery genre with author and Mathematics Professor Grant McAllister, with its echoes of Agatha Christie. Now an elderly recluse living on a Mediterranean island, many years ago he wrote a collection of seven murder mysteries under the title, The White Murders. In a research paper in 1937, The Permutations of Detective Fiction, he theorises that there are rules for murder mysteries, calculating the possibilities and the different structures, that he illustrates with the short mysteries in his collection. A publisher discovers the mysteries and wants to republish them that leads to young, ambitious editor, Julia Hart, turning up at McAllister's home.

Hart wants to go through each of the mysteries with McAllister, being sharp and observant, she notes the inconsistencies in each story, leaving her curious, with many questions and wondering if something bigger lies within the stories. She becomes the eighth detective, persistent and determined as she discusses each mystery after reading it with McAllister, who claims to have a poor memory and insists that there is no connection between the stories. Hart, however, is having none of this and wants to know more, intrigued with McAllister himself, who is he and what is his personal history? Why do the mysteries go under the title of The White Murders?

Pavesi's approach in his brilliant novel is different and original, offering the reader the opportunity to turn detective and hunt for the conundrums, riddles and clues that are present and underlie the unexpected and surprising ending(s). The clues are all there, in the well plotted and structured storytelling, the book within a book, that engaged me so thoroughly. This is a highly entertaining, twisted and intriguing thriller, that will appeal to many readers of crime fiction, especially those who love their classic golden age of crime mysteries. Many thanks to Penguin Michael Joseph for an ARC.
Profile Image for Chelsea Humphrey.
1,439 reviews78.1k followers
July 20, 2020
What a clever and complex story this was! I have some much respect for the author in creating this ambitious tale within a tale, and will surely be looking out for their future work. As a fan of "old timey" crime fiction, the mysteries set inside the modern day narrative was a really nice touch, although I did find myself almost wanting to rush through them to get to the present mystery at hand. The ending did feel a bit lackluster after all the build-up, but that perhaps was due to the fact that so much time is spent pouring into the old stories, and not a ton of time is spent developing the characters in current time. If you enjoy books that present the reader with a plot that challenges the mind, definitely give The Eighth Detective a try this August.

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy.
August 27, 2021
| | blog | tumblr | ko-fi | |

The Eighth Detective is not quite the "thrilling, wildly inventive nesting doll of a mystery" it'd be promised to be. I approached this novel hoping for something in the realms of Anthony Horowitz. Sadly, The Eighth Detective seems closer to The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, in that both novels are hellbent on 'confusing' the reader with 'shocking' reveals. Similarly to Horowitz's Magpie Murders, The Eighth Detective introduces to the work of a fictitious writer of detective fiction. In Alex Pavesi's novel the writer of a collection of short stories (all whodunnits) has relocated to an unmanned island. He's approached by an editor interested in re-publishing this collection. She decides for theatrical reasons to read his own stories to him, all of these stories build on a paper he wrote "examining the mathematical structure of murder mysteries" called 'The Permutations of Detective Fiction' (very a la Ronald Knox). The editor notices discrepancies in his stories (continuity errors, incongruous descriptions etc.).

The novel is ¾ made up by these short stories...and dare I say, or write, that they are at best mediocre?
After reading the opening story (one in which a character called Henry may have murdered a character called Bunny...was this a nod to the The Secret History), I hoped that the following ones could offer a bit more variety in terms of structure, style, and atmosphere...sadly, they are very same-y.
Most of them seem like Agatha Christie rip-offs (the most ostentatious of which is acknowledged by the fictions author as a 'homage' to his favourite crime novel). Each short story is followed by sections titled 'Conversations' in which the editor grills the author about his stories. The author seems to have little recollection of the intentional discrepancies he peppered into his stories, but the editor is unyielding and tries to learn more about his private life (which made certain later reveals less 'shocking'). Each time she finishes reading a short story the final line appears twice (once at end of the short story and once at the beginning of the following 'Conversation'). This did not help in making the novel feel less repetitive.
The writing style doesn't seem to vary so that the short stories and the 'Conversations' seem to have been written by the same person (which they have, but it kind of ruins the illusion of the stories having been written by a character). The characters were mere names on a page, their personalities inexistent or irrelevant.
The Eighth Detective will offer little to readers who are fans of detective fiction and/or whodunnits. The short stories were populated by boorish caricatures, relied on predictable twists, and failed to amuse or surprise.

Read more reviews on my blog / / / View all my reviews on Goodreads
Profile Image for Blaine.
749 reviews608 followers
August 7, 2020
Remember that I’ve rejected the view of detective stories as logical puzzles, where the clues define a unique solution and the process of deriving it is almost mathematical. It’s not, and they never do. That’s all just sleight of hand.... [T]he central purpose of a murder mystery is to give its readers a handful of suspects and the promise that in about a hundred pages one or more of them will be revealed as the murderers. That’s the beauty of the genre.... It presents the reader with a small, finite number of options, and then at the end it just circles back and commits to one of them. It’s really a miracle that the human brain could ever be surprised by such a solution, when you think about it.

Thanks to NetGalley and Henry Holt & Company for sending me an ARC of The Eighth Detective in exchange for an honest review.

Thirty years ago, Grant McCallister wrote a mathematical paper titled “The Permutations of Detective Fiction,” which set out to prove the ingredients* of every murder mystery. As part of demonstrating the paper’s arguments, he wrote seven murder mysteries later published in a collection called The White Murders. Now, Julia Hart meets with Grant on a remote island to review and edit the stories so that the collection can be republished. But Julia keeps finding subtle, deliberate errors in the stories. What do those errors mean? Are they clues showing some connection between the collection—and Grant—and a long ago unsolved murder?

It’s a good setup, but not a unique one. Instead, the first thing that sets The Eighth Detective apart is the structure of the novel. The chapters alternate between the collection’s seven short stories and the conversations between Grant and Julia following each story. The seven stories are clever, old school murder mysteries, and the book only work because each story stands up on its own merits as an entertaining mystery. More importantly, The Eighth Detective is quite unusual because it’s incredibly subversive about the murder mystery/detective genre. Little is as it seems in this novel, and the final third contains numerous earned twists, and no less than two endings that nicely illustrate the book’s theme.

The Eighth Detective is an original, clever, and subversive take on classic murder mysteries. Recommended.

*Curious about those ingredients? They’re in the first comment. :)
Profile Image for Liz.
2,022 reviews2,525 followers
August 5, 2020
This is a clever, original mystery. A mathematician wrote a book of murder mystery short stories in the 1930s. The book was meant to outline the necessary rules for a mystery. ”The number of suspects must be two or more, otherwise there is no mystery, and the number of killers and victims must be at least one each, otherwise there no murder...Then the final requirement is the most important. The killer must be drawn from the set of suspects.”
Now, years later, a small publishing company is looking to re-publish the book and a young editor is sent to work with the author to polish those stories. Because each of the stories has inconsistencies. But she soon realizes the inconsistencies are on purpose. But what is that purpose? Because Grant, the author isn’t saying. The trick becomes to find the inconsistencies before Julia does.
While I appreciated the “game”, if you will, I can’t say the book was altogether enjoyable. This book is all about how clever the author can be, how convoluted he can make the tale. I can only imagine the notes and plotting necessary to keep everything straight through until the end. It’s meant to evoke Agatha Christie and other writers of her ilk. One story was so similar as to be a knockoff. At times, the writing felt forced. I much preferred Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders or Peter Swanson’s Eight Perfect Murders.
This book is all about the story, not the characters. If you want characters to bond with, you won’t be happy with this book.
My thanks to netgalley and Henry Holt and Co. for an advance copy of this book.
Profile Image for Erin (from Long Island, NY).
449 reviews152 followers
October 16, 2020
Man am I the odd man out with this 1?! So as I trudged through the 7 “short stories” that make up a good part of this book, I realized it was taking effort.. I was bored. But I kept on.. Thinking that it must all be worth it when I get to the end, or the point, or whatever. But no.. In my humble opinion, it wasn’t worth it. There aren’t any real characters to get attached to, or even to be interested in.. So I think it really comes down to whether you enjoy the stories, & to me they were obvious & kind of silly. Almost like a skit. & I found the ending to be more of the same. Unfortunately this obviously just wasn’t for me.
Profile Image for Ceecee.
1,971 reviews1,501 followers
July 6, 2020
Former Maths Professor Grant McAllister writes a paper ‘The Permutations of Detective Fiction’ in which he demonstrates that crime fiction comprises of four ingredients:- Suspects, The Victim, The Detective, The Killer(s). He then writes seven short stories collectively known as The White Murders in which he demonstrates his theory which are published many years ago. He now lives in seclusion on a Mediterranean island where he is visited by editor Julia Hart with a view to republishing the stories. Julia however, notes inconsistencies in the stories and finds herself increasingly immersed in a mystery of her own in which she becomes the eighth detective. The original stories are read to Grant by Julia and they then discuss them.

This is a well written and original novel, it’s clever and a really good puzzle throughout. The format works well and the original stories have an Agatha Christie feel to them which I like and the post story discussions between Grant and Julia are fascinating as those are the sections I enjoy the most because they are revealing. Grant is intriguing as he’s elusive and evasive and Julia is sharply clever and persistent. I really like the concept of the novel and the solving of riddles, are the stories clues to something deeper, or are they a joke or a test? If so, who is testing who? As the end nears and the truth reveals itself (or does it?) it all comes together well. The ending is as enigmatic as Grant!

Overall, a really intriguing read and something a bit different.

With thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Michael Joseph for the ARC.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,339 reviews697 followers
September 29, 2020
,This is a short story collection inside a novel. “The Eighth Detective” is about a book editor who wants to publish an obscure novel of short story mysteries. The obscure novel was written by a mathematician who intends to prove that all mysteries follow a mathematical formula. This mathematician, McAllister, had written a research paper entitled “The Permutations of Detective Fiction” stating that specific criteria must be adhered to for a murder mystery. For example, there is the whole set of characters; the subsets are: victim(s), suspects (must be at least 2), a killer(s), and detective(s). The permutations of the different elements are multiple(and yes a victim can solve their own murder and be a detective).

So, the novel opens with one of the short stories. After the story, McAllister and the editor discuss the story and the elements within the story. There are seven stories and seven discussions(conversations) about the stories. At the end, after there is more hashing out, all the short stories come a bit more together. The editor also continues to query as to why the collection is entitled “The White Murders”. The thread throughout all the short stories is discussed, and it adds to more mystery.

I had high hopes for this novel. It appealed to my logical sense and I love with things can be broken down into math. The final conversations and two endings has a couple of plot twists, but no big enough for me. I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t wowed by it.

Profile Image for Darla.
3,345 reviews526 followers
January 13, 2023
This gets a top rating from me for the intricate layering that Pavesi accomplished using a fictional book entitled "The White Murders" as a centerpiece. Really impressive considering this is a debut novel. If you are a mystery lover and a lover of discussing books (like I am), then this is a must read for you. The setting on a remote island adds to the Agatha Christie vibe as do the tropes used in the stories. Full of surprises and unexpected content that keeps your mind occupied to the end. If your book group loves to dissect mysteries, then put this on your schedule for the fall.

I just finished reading Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson and it reminded me of this clever detective novel from 2020.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,345 reviews4,865 followers
January 16, 2022

This novel harks back to the very early days of detective fiction, when crimes were usually solved by observation and deduction rather than forensics.

The story: Grant McAllister, a retired mathematician from Scotland, now resides on a beautiful Mediterranean island.

In 1937, when McAllister was a graduate student, he wrote a research paper called 'The Permutations of Detective Fiction', in which he posited that every detective story has characters in four categories: victim(s), suspect(s), detective(s), and killer(s). The categories can overlap, however, so a detective can be the killer, etc. McAllister illustrates this with a Venn diagram:

To illustrate his ideas, McAllister wrote seven detective stories, and published them in a book called 'The White Murders.'

Twenty-five years later, a publisher called 'Blood Type Books' wants to re-issue McAllister's stories, with an introduction explaining the mathematical basis of the tales. To this end, the publisher sends editor Julia Hart to interview McAllister.

At each session with the author, Julia reads one story aloud, and then she and McAllister discuss it in detail.

The seven detective stories, respectively, have the following victims:

◆ a man murdered in his bedroom.

◆ a woman who dies when she goes off a cliff.

◆ a young woman who's drowned in a tub.

◆ a man killed at a private party in a restaurant.

◆ ten people killed on a tiny island.

◆ an old woman smothered in her bed.

◆ a victim who comes back as a ghost.

As Julia and McAllister discuss each of these tales, it's clear the editor has an agenda. She thinks McAllister killed a woman called Elizabeth White decades ago, a crime the press dubbed the 'White Murder.' Furthermore, Julia thinks McAllister left clues about this in his stories....which she tries to winkle out. Thus, it's a bit of a cat and mouse game between Julia and McAllister, with each one keeping secrets.

The Eighth Detective is an entertaining read, with some clever surprises. However I felt like I was REALLY reading stories published in the early 1900s....stories that had very unrealistic premises.

For instance, more than one character in the book finds a dead body (or bodies) and never bothers to call the police. Instead, they proceed to investigate the crime themselves. Moreover there's an instance of police brutality that's over the top for me.

That said, fans of old timey detective stories would enjoy this book.

Thanks to Netgalley, the author (Alex Pavesi), and the publisher (Henry Holt and Company) for a copy of the book.

You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot....
Profile Image for Jonetta.
2,204 reviews919 followers
December 26, 2020
Grant McAllister is a retired mathematician living on a remote island in the Mediterranean. Over twenty years ago he wrote a collection of mystery stories and had a meager publishing of them. Julia Hart is an editor representing a small publisher who found a copy of the book and wants to republish the collection. She arranges a meeting and they read and discuss each story methodically, fitting them into his carefully designed mathematical theory of mystery construction.

I don’t want to say much more about the details of the story because it is as cleverly constructed as Grant’s theorem. It took a bit for this slow burn to consume me but when it did, I couldn’t let go. Each story in the collection is presented as if it’s the main one in the book, which initially felt confusing but quickly became something I avidly anticipated. Along the way, I started questioning a lot more than the stories and that was an extremely gradual development.

This is one of the most clever stories I’ve read in a long time and I love clever. It’s also a debut novel by the author and I’ll sign up for the next book he chooses to write and release. I wish I could share more but it would be much too spoilerish. It’s capped with a stunning ending that had me rewinding the audiobook to make certain I’d heard what I heard. And speaking of the audio format, the narrator was outstanding. She was not only responsible for distinctively giving voice to the two main characters but a host of others from the individual stories in the collection, which she handled excellently. This turned out to be a gem in the rough for me.

Posted on Blue Mood Café
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,222 reviews2,052 followers
April 30, 2022
This book was certainly value for money - eight stories in one and most of them given alternative endings. It was very cleverly written.

Julia Hart is an Editor sent to discuss the possibility of publishing an old work from a retired writer. He is understood to have not only written a collection of murder mysteries but also to be responsible for a mathematical analysis of the genre of which his book is an example. Each day Julia reads one of the stories to him and they discuss it, but as time passes it becomes clear something is amiss.

Once I understood that nothing in the book was necessarily the way it first appeared I enjoyed it very much. There were heaps of clues to analyse and the final show down was excellent, although I had anticipated at least part of it. All very entertaining and I will look for more books by this author.
Profile Image for Fran.
640 reviews586 followers
June 21, 2020
"An argument had been building between them all afternoon, ever since Bunny had brought their lunch to a sudden end." Why did he invite Henry and Megan to his house in Spain in 1930? "...a pointing finger of blood reaching from below Bunny's door...Bunny facedown, on the sheets-a knife handle emerging from his back". Upon further inspection, all windows and doors were locked. "If there are only two suspects, then both of them know who is killer is". This story was written twenty-five years ago by Grant McAllister, a retired mathematician, a recluse living on a secluded Mediterranean island.

In 1937, Grant wrote a research paper entitled "The Permutations of Detective Fiction". His goal-to explore the criteria needed for a tome to be classified as a murder mystery and list all the possible structural variations. He had published a slim volume of seven murder mysteries in a collection called "The White Murders". Having discovered this book in a second hand bookshop, a small publisher was interested in reissuing "The White Murders" for sale to a wider audience. Julia Hart, editor, was dispatched to the island to meet the elusive Grant McAllister. Julia is suspicious from the get-go, however, she gives him the benefit of the doubt. Each murder mystery has inconsistencies. Are these inconsistencies intentional? Why doesn't Grant provide any clarity? Julia and Grant continue to have lively discussions about the permutations of detective fiction.

The footpath on the southern coast of Evescombe was isolated. It was a perfect place to murder someone...all it takes is a gentle push...decades of erosion...possible 'Death by Distraction'? According to Grant's mathematical concepts-two suspects could be guilty...a suspect or the victim as suspect.

"The Eighth Detective" by debut author Alex Pavesi is a fascinating puzzle, a unique perspective on the murder mystery. "The killer or killers must be drawn from the group of suspects [mathematically speaking], the killer(s) must be a subset of the suspects...". Why is Grant McAllister's book titled "The White Murders"? Readers are in for an innovative, very creative read. Kudos to Alex Pavesi.

Thank you Henry Holt & Company and Net Galley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Ink_Drinker.
164 reviews223 followers
August 5, 2020
This book was a slow burn for me that kept getting better and better as I read it. It was well written and very original! The stories (it's a tale within a tale) have an Agatha Christie like feel to them.

The Eighth Detective is a fascinating puzzle with eight murders involved. If you are a fan of old-time murder mysteries, you are in for a treat! It was genuinely a joy to read and I would recommend it, no consider it a mandatory read, for any mystery reading enthusiast!

I would like to thank Netgalley and Henry Holt & Company for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Mara.
1,559 reviews3,762 followers
July 30, 2020
4.5 stars -- Wow. This was a slow burn that got better and better as it went, which I honestly find to be somewhat of a rarity in whodunnits. To level set, this is basically a set of interconnected short stories that has an interstitial framing narrative that pops in from time to time. The framing device seems to be set approximately in the mid-1960s, but all the short stories are set in 1930s & 40s England, and each short story plays with different sub-tropes of golden age whodunnits. At the beginning of the book, I was into it but thinking, OK this is pretty good, but nothing too exciting. By the time we got to the middle section of the stories where we had a locked room mystery followed by a really high quality isolated closed circle mystery, I was like, yeah, this is actually really good. But the way this book stuck the landing, at least for my tastes-- I thought it struck a great balance between some expected elements to the resolution but executed in a really exciting and fun way. All in all, I had a great time with this book and think it's a "mystery lovers' mystery."
Profile Image for Carolyn.
2,175 reviews615 followers
September 16, 2020
In the 1940s, a professor of mathematics named Grant McAllister wrote a book titled "The White Murders" demonstrating the rules of murder mysteries in a collection of seven golden age murder mysteries. He also published a paper on his mathematical theory of the genre showing there are only four components to a murder mystery (victims, suspects, detectives and killers) and that the number of permutations was small and could be demonstrated by the seven stories in his book. Not long after publishing the book, he left his position in Edinburgh and moved to a small mediterranean island and was never heard of again. Now editor Julia Trent has tracked him down and come to see him with the offer of republishing his book.

This is a very clever and original book. The stories themselves are well written but not particularly original (some very close indeed to stories from the golden age as was Grant's aim) and at first it felt like a bit of a slog to get through, but the book must be read as a whole to appreciate the role of each story in the overall context of the novel. As Julia goes through the stories one by one with Grant she notices many inconsistencies. Grant claims to have no memory of these, but Julia begins to wonder if there is a bigger mystery at play here. The reader is given the chance to become a detective looking for clues and lies in the stories, but will likely still be surprised at the turn the novel takes after all the stories have been read. I have a feeling that a second reading would be more enjoyable than the first with the knowledge of what is going on.
Profile Image for Fiona.
827 reviews437 followers
May 7, 2020
You know when you’re relieved to have finished a book that it wasn’t a good experience. The premise of this book is that a young female editor visits an elderly author who lives on a Mediterranean island to edit a collection of murder mysteries he wrote decades beforehand. She reads each out loud to him before they discuss it. The author of the stories had also written a research paper on the mathematical definition of the components of the classic murder mystery. You might think this would result in something clever but no! It’s as simple as there has to be a victim or victims, a murderer or murderers, and so on. Each story is dissected to explain how it fits in with his theory. The ending aims to surprise the reader with a twist but any intelligent reader is going to be way ahead of this.

For me, this was a clunky, poorly written book. It is possible that the short stories are written badly on purpose. I hope so because they’re distasteful on the whole and full of dreadful metaphors. Having said that, I don’t think the rest of the book is well written either. It’s clear that the intention was to write a clever variable on classic murder / detective mysteries from The Golden Age but, in my opinion, it fails on all counts. It didn’t give me any pleasure whatsoever.

With thanks to NetGalley and Michael Joseph for a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Gary.
2,614 reviews369 followers
July 10, 2020
I was drawn by the synopsis of this debut novel by author Alex Pavesi.

A young editor named Julia Hart travels to a remote village in the Mediterranean hoping to convince a writer to republish his collection of detective stories. On meeting him she realises there are bigger mysteries than the detective stories.

The rules for murder mysteries are there must be a victim, a suspect and a detective made up of changes to make the story. Thirty years ago Grant McAllister, a professor of mathematics calculated the permutations calculating the different orders and possibilities of a mystery into seven perfect detective stories he quietly published.

Julia wants to sit with the author to revisit the stories and convince him to republish his book. Julia Hart the editor wants to understand why the author is hiding from his past.

Once they start to revisit the stories Julia discovers that there are things that don’t add up and there are inconsistencies that raise her suspicions. Are they clues or does Julia have her own mystery to solve.

The novel is told around the short stories that the author wrote. Julia has asked Grant to go through the stories individually so that she can gather ideas for the republished works. The novel alternates between the short stories and author and editors discussions.

For a debut novel this is a very brave concept and the author really goes for something different. Although it is a very good effort and certainly an entertaining read I am not sure he quite achieves the best mix of dialogue. I would have preferred more conversation between the editor and author rather than the short stories. It feels at times too much like a book of short stories, nevertheless an entertaining read.

I would like to thank both Net Galley and Penguin UK – Michael Joseph for supplying a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Javier.
756 reviews191 followers
October 19, 2020
Grant McAllister, a former professor of matemathics, wrote a paper called "The Permutations of Detective Fiction", in which he establishes the rules for murder mysteries and its four main ingredients: the Suspects, the Victim(s), the Detective(s) and the Killer(s), and to illustrate his work he published a collection of seven short stories under the title "The White Murders".

Thirty years later he's retired in a Mediterranean island until Julia Hart, an editor, shows interest in republishing his book, and while revising his stories she discovers certain inconsistencies that point to a bigger mystery.

"The Eighth Detective" had my name written all over it. All in caps. With big blinding lights. It seemed written thinking in all my reading tastes, so...why didn't I enjoy it as much as I should? No, seriously, someone tell me why I didn't, cause I'm not sure.

The book structure is pretty ingenious, with a discussion between author and editor after each short story. Although I found this chapters interesting, they got a bit repetitive, stating the same facts several times (I felt like I should have taken notes). I think the real merit of the book resides in the short stories themselves, but I didn't find all of them equally good. Some of them had big Agatha Christie vibes, so big in fact that some were practically a carbon copy of some of her most famous plots. Homage or rip-off?🤔

I liked how Julia pointed to the clues and inconsistencies in the stories. What I didn't like was that we didn't have a way to tie this clues into the bigger mystery ourselves until we were specifically told about it. Maybe it would have worked better for me if we had known all the facts of the White murder from the beginning, so then we could have look ourselves for those clues while reading Grant's stories.

Very original and ingenious premise that in my opinion was not used to the max.
Profile Image for Michelle.
603 reviews457 followers
August 24, 2020
4 stars!

I've been going back and forth on how I wanted to rate this for a few days now. I ended up going a bit higher that my gut says because I applaud authors for going for the gusto. This is one of those stories. It is so unique (which is good, but can also frustrate others and turn them off), but I live for these books! I really appreciate authors who make risky decisions and think outside the box. The Eighth Detective definitely does that.

So, what's it about? Well, this is a short story collection within a book. We meet a young editor, Julia, who has been sent by her publisher to interview a recluse author who published a slim book of seven perfect detective stories thirty years ago. We get to read these seven stories and in between each story, we also witness Julia interviewing the author on each story after it is read. As we go, Julia begins to notice some discrepancies and she is perplexed when the author is unable to answer or address her questions. We learn there may be more to the author than meets the eye. What is he hiding? Why is he living the life of an exile? You just have to read to find out!

Let me tell you - I sometimes struggle with short story collections. The common problem is that the stories you love don't last long enough and the stories you don't like kind of drag along. I found that issue here, BUT I was not prepared for the last third of the book. I had initially wanted to rate this a little lower, but I'm telling you, you need to stick around for the end. It was SO COOL and so well done. I was thrilled with the ending. I cannot wait to read his next book and I hope many of you consider reading this one!

Thank you so much to Netgalley, Henry Holt and Co. and Alex Pavesi for the opportunity to read and provide an honest review!

Review Date: 08/24/2020
Publication Date: 08/04/2020

Profile Image for Faith.
1,846 reviews516 followers
September 14, 2020
Julia Hart is an editor who visits Grant McAllister, the reclusive mathematician, with an offer to republish his sole book of short stories. The stories are mysteries that Grant wrote about 30 years ago as illustrations of his theory of mysteries. This book consists of alternating chapters. Each of the short stories is followed by a chapter in which Julia and Grant discuss the story and she tries to ferret out hidden meaning in the story and details of Grant’s life

This is a case of a blurb promising more than the book delivers. It certainly isn’t “thrilling” (it isn’t even trying to be thrilling) and I also wouldn’t call it “wildly inventive”. The short stories are Agatha Christie-esque, particularly “Trouble on Blue Pearl Island” which is intended as an homage to Christie’s “And Then There Were None”. That was my favorite story because of its diabolical ending. My problem was that the stories weren’t great. Late in the book there is a twist that Then there is a second twist, and a third one. I think the plot actually had the potential to be clever if the characters had more bite to them. This is not a battle of wits. The characters are more likely to curl up into a fetal position than they are to engage. Also, the short stories could have been better. 3.5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
Profile Image for Dannii Elle.
2,034 reviews1,419 followers
February 8, 2021
Grant McAllister is a professor of mathematics who used his expertise to plot the trajectory of events in quite a different field - crime fiction. He penned a series of short tales with thrilling and murderous twists that each divulged and depicted the secrets of this genre. And then he disappeared. Decades later and he has been tracked down by Julia Hart, an editor seeking to anthologise and publish his previous work.

I did not anticipate quite how extraordinary this was going to be. The plot sounded intriguing but I was thrilled to find that every short story this fictional author wrote was also included here, on each altering chapter. Those in-between focused on the present-day fictional author and his new editor, as they battled for wits, truth, and dominance. I'm unsure which was more clever - the myriad of collected tales with their disparate and unguessable endings, or the story arc that combined them all and had me equally as floored by the grand reveals and concluding twists.

This is definitely a story with much to impart to the reader during each reading. I am already anticipating returning to this one to find the multitude of dropped clues and interwoven imagery this cleverly incorporated into every single scene and were all entirely missed by me, until the characters nudged me in the correct and offending direction.
September 2, 2020
I was intrigued by this debut novel purely because of the premise which sounded so clever but the reality couldn’t have been more different for me and I found it boring and hugely unrewarding. I suspect part of this was down to the fact that the book features seven very average short stories and my reading preference is always for the continuity and depth of a full length novel.

Grant McAllister was formerly a Professor of Mathematics at Edinburgh University and in an attempt to provide a mathematical definition of a murder mystery wrote a 1937 research paper entitled The Permutations of Detective Fiction. In an attempt to marry his ideas up with literature he privately published a book - The White Murders - consisting of seven short stories, each of which demonstrate his ‘rules’ in some way. Julia Hart is an editor at Blood Type Books and travels to the small Mediterranean island where he now lives a reclusive lifestyle to revisit the stories and speak to the author prior to financing republication. Eagle-eyed Julia reads the stories aloud in alternate chapters and is struck by how many of the stories seem to have references to the well publicised 1940 murder of Elisabeth White on Hampstead Heath along with each of the stories containing a noticeable inconsistency. McAllister insists the connections to the unsolved 1940 murder are purely coincidental and is very sketchy about the details of his stories, merely saying he wrote them a long time ago. Despite Julia’s probing he remains taciturn and infuriatingly vague and their discussions are stilted with McAllister unwilling to be drawn on his personal life, meaning that the reader has little opportunity to get to know Julia in any meaningful way either.

The book opens with the first of these short stories and is followed by a discussion between Julia and McAllister as to how it demonstrates one of his rules. Sadly these rules are obvious and I doubt any reader will need to read a short story before being enlightened with the obvious information that every murder mystery needs a victim, at least two suspects, a detective and a killer and these can overlap (with the detective being the killer and so forth). None of these insights are breathtaking and I found it frustrating to wade through the stories only for it to be revealed that the only relevant thing to takeaway was something as straightforward as individuals can collude and any subset of suspects can be guilty. I found the simplicity of it all to be quite insulting.

Given that the book consists of 345 pages and the final conversation where everything comes together starts around 300 pages I felt that Eight Detectives offered very little bang for your buck and overall proved a waste of reading time.
Profile Image for Christina.
545 reviews201 followers
June 13, 2020
What an ingenious, intelligent and totally inventive mystery. Be warned: do not read this book when you are in the mood for a mindless thriller. This book will make your brain WORK for the cookies. You’re gonna have to look for clues and details, interpret new theories about mysteries, and even do some math. But lord it is fun.

This book is about a mathematician who has a long-forgotten book of short mysteries rediscovered by a modern day publisher. Through their discussions, we learn he has a mathematical theory about the structure of mysteries. We also see that he may be dropping clues about a larger motive for writing these stories. This is a book within a book, and within both stories the reader is given a bunch of theories and clues to figure out. Some of the time I felt like I was reading Agatha Christie and other times I was put in mind of the Encyclopedia Brown books I loved as a kid. All the stories culminate in a larger mystery to solve. The structure of the book is unlike anything I’ve read before and I can’t imagine how tough it must have been to create.

I loved the characters, especially editor Julia Hart and mystery author Grant McAllister. I liked the theories very much although I had certain intellectual quibbles with them. (What about mysteries when you already know who the murderer is up front, but you’re just waiting to see him get caught, for example? Is that not a mystery too?) This book will make you want to race through to get to the ending, but you can’t really do that, because it’s so dense and intellectual and you might miss some clues. When you DO get to the ending though, it is a fantastic payoff. It’s the kind of book you may want to read again, now knowing what you know.

Many thanks to NetGalley, Henry Holt and Alex Pavesi for this totally original and very smart mystery to read in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Mandy White (mandylovestoread).
2,030 reviews528 followers
December 6, 2020
Such a clever and unique story!

Multiple detective stories with an Agatha Christie vibe. The murder mystery rules. Grant McAllister wrote 7 stories, hiding the secrets in them. Only those with a super keen eye will find them.

30 years after they were first published, Julia Hart tracks the author down with a view to re-publish them. But she believes that the clues in the story link to a true crime case.

This is a much talked about book and I couldn't wait to read it. The story was interesting and very very addictive. The ending will shock you - well it did me!
Profile Image for Nigel.
817 reviews93 followers
August 12, 2020
Briefly - Christie esque detective fiction (or is it...!) - I found this entertaining.

In full
Many years ago Grant McAllister, a professor of Mathematics, came up with rules applying to murder fiction. He then wrote seven stories that were perfect examples of this to him. The book had little interest and he now lives on a Mediterranean island in peace and seclusion. His peace is disturbed by the arrival of Julia Hart, an editor, whose publisher wants to reprint the book. Julia reads each story to Grant and then asks him about them. There are some inconsistencies in the stories and his answers to questions.

The stories themselves are very Christie-esque. They are of a time and style that any Agatha fan would understand and recognise. We have variations on a victim(s) and a detective(s) in various settings. There is even an homage to "Ten Little Indians". The stories themselves are good enough. However it is the extended story about Grant's memories and Julia's interest that is the real story here for me.

With the telling of each story we expand the narrative of what takes place between Julia and Grant. There are tensions here. Grant seems uncomfortable with the scrutiny of his stories. Julia seems determined to extract background both on the stories and on Grant's life. I enjoyed this.

All in all I found this a curiously different idea. The explanation of detective stories via mathematics was intriguing. The whole broader picture I really did find entertaining. What about the ending I hear you ask. Well in true Christie style my lips are sealed however I did find the ending satisfying. Aspects of it I had my suspicions about - some parts took me by surprise. This may be a book for fans of a particular genre however I think many of them would find this entertaining as I did.

Note - I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review
Profile Image for Helga.
887 reviews127 followers
December 1, 2020

In even the most innocent scenes, there is darkness to be found at the corners…

The Eighth Detective is a clever, ingenious and refreshing suspense/mystery full of puzzles, clues and twists. It is a mystery within mysteries. Stories within a story.

Years ago Grant McAllister wrote “The White Murders”, a book consisting of 7 unique detective stories. The book wasn’t a success and soon was forgotten.

Until now.

Julia Hart is an editor who is charged with interviewing Grant for the purpose of re-publishing his book with a new introduction. She meets him on a remote island where he has been living like a recluse.
And as they begin re-visiting the stories one by one, Julia realizes that nothing is as it seems, that each story hides more than it reveals and that Grant himself is the biggest mystery of all.
Profile Image for Liz Barnsley.
3,430 reviews992 followers
March 15, 2020
I adored this book and read it pretty much in one sitting.

Titled "The Eighth Detective" in the UK this is a Christie-esque puzzle that offers not just one crime tale but several, as an editor works with an author on a book of short stories...these stories all together offer up a particularly intelligent formula that doesn't show it's true face until the end. Eight Detectives is clever, involving and has a practically styled prose that keeps you immersed throughout.

What DOES make a good crime novel - this is the theme Eight Detectives explores throughout it's twisty narrative, where the stories themselves speak to a wider mystery and the effect of reader and author is key

I haven't read a book like this before and as a huge Agatha Christie fan it was a genuine joy to read offering a homage to that greatest of crime novelists whilst also being entirely it's own thing.

Definitely one to watch in 2020. Highly Recommended.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,435 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.