The Eighth Detective

Holt. Aug. 2020. 304p. ISBN 9781250755933. $26.99. M
DEBUT In 1937, mathematician Grant McAllister wrote a research paper, “The Permutations of Detective Fiction,” which provided a “mathematical definition” for the murder mystery. He outlined murder mystery requirements—victim(s), murder, suspects, and an investigator—and then wrote seven stories illustrating some of these parameters. Each of the seven tales here is accompanied by a chapter in which Grant and editor Julia, who, 20 years hence, wants to republish them, discuss the stories. “Spain, 1930” is a closed-room mystery in which a man is murdered and there are two suspects. Obviously, they both know who “dunnit.” In “Death at the Seaside,” Vanessa Allen falls to her death from a narrow cliffside pathway. Daily, she crossed the path with her neighbor, Gordon Foyle, who had a motive to push her, but evidence is scant. Is it murder, suicide, or an accident? This story has a Sherlockian tone. Further pieces include a woman drowned in her bath, a grandmother smothered for her jewels, and a supernatural story in which a dead policeman solves his own murder. As they talk about the stories, Julia begins to suspect that Grant isn’t telling her everything.
VERDICT Although the stories in this first collection have twists and turns, and the book itself has a surprise ending, neither the tales, nor the writing are compelling, the latter containing more similes than imagination. [See Prepub Alert, 1/22/20.]

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