cover image West Heart Kill

West Heart Kill

Dann McDorman. Knopf, $28 (288p) ISBN 978-0-593-53757-2

McDorman’s wily debut breaks the fourth wall immediately, in a sign of the authorial shenanigans to come: “This murder mystery, like all murder mysteries, begins with the evocation of what the reader understands to be its atmosphere,” goes the opening line. From there, McDorman introduces private detective Adam McAnnis, who’s finagled an invitation to a weekend-long bicentennial celebration at the West Heart hunting club in Upstate New York, where his old college friend’s family owns a cabin. After McDorman establishes his large cast (in part through a half-redacted list of dramatis personae), the plot speeds up with a suspicious drowning and the accidental shooting of West Heart president John Garmond. Looking to get to the bottom of both deaths, McAnnis interviews his fellow lodgers one by one. As the story unfolds, the omniscient narrator intrudes to offer up tangents on subjects including murder mystery genre rules (“The key is a sense of fair play—a reader must not feel cheated”) and Agatha Christie’s famous 1926 disappearance. While these peregrinations may not appeal to mystery fans who prefer a more direct route from crime to solution, McDorman ensures they never come at the expense of satisfying twists or shocks. For readers willing to try something a little different, this is quite the diversion. Agent: David Black, David Black Literary. (Oct.)