cover image The Eighth Detective

The Eighth Detective

Alex Pavesi. Holt, $26.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-75593-3

Pavesi’s cerebral debut blends a mystery with an academic discussion of the mystery genre. Book editor Julia Hart has come to a small Mediterranean island, the home of reclusive author Grant McAllister, to help him prepare his 25-year-old story collection, The White Murders, for reissue. Privately printed in the early 1940s, the collection was based on a 1937 paper by Grant, whose intent was “to give a mathematical definition of a murder mystery.” As the editor and author go through each of the seven stories, they discuss Grant’s mathematical rules for his fiction. Julia spots inconsistencies in each, and remarks on the fact that the collection’s title echoes an unsolved crime from the time of the book’s origin. Pavesi clearly knows his classic murder mysteries, as shown by a story that evokes Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, and all his plot tricks will please readers with a similar passion. Some may be put off by the lack of emotional depth and an overly long denouement that serves chiefly to illustrate the author’s cleverness. Whatever one’s take on this ingenious if schematic novel, Pavesi is a writer to watch. Agent: James Willis, Watson, Little (U.K.). (Aug.)