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The Eighth Detective


The Eighth Detective

Having a fairly good idea of what to expect when I pick up a book written by one of my favorite authors, I am rarely disappointed in where it takes me.

As I began THE EIGHTH DETECTIVE, Alex Pavesi’s debut novel, it immediately became clear that I was in new, undiscovered territory, experiencing a story far different from the traditional mysteries that I normally read and enjoy. Many will recognize it as an English mystery in the style of Agatha Christie. Only two characters occupy the book’s pages, but Pavesi presents readers with a remarkable puzzle that requires explanation and thought. It is mystery fiction in a unique, clever and captivating form. Prepare yourself for an original and exceptional reading experience.

Julia Hart and Grant McAllister are participating in work sessions surrounding what is anticipated to be the publication of a 25-year-old collection of short story murder mysteries. Julia is an editor at a small mystery publishing house and has discovered The White Murders. The author is Grant, a math professor and mystery enthusiast who wrote the stories to demonstrate that there is a mathematical definition to murder mysteries.

"Pavesi seems willing to break several traditional mystery norms in this exciting first effort, and we await future books with great anticipation."

Julia hopes to publish The White Murders, but first she must find Grant, who has become a recluse. She travels to a small Mediterranean island where he has lived for many years. Pavesi’s novel consists of Grant’s stories and the conversation between them, but midway through their discussion of the mathematical rules for mysteries, a new mystery comes to Julia’s attention. It evokes an unsolved crime from the time of Grant’s original work, and it is his reluctance to share his knowledge about it that becomes a new plot element of THE EIGHTH DETECTIVE.

Grant’s so-called mathematical rules will not be surprising. There must be a victim, a murder and a detective to solve the crime. Each story discussed by Julia and Grant expand upon and adapt these rules that exist only as theory. One is reminded of the iconic line from the classic film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre: “We don’t need no badges.” Mystery writers really do not need rules; the rules are there to be avoided, and the great writers know when and why they should do so. In THE EIGHTH DETECTIVE, the rules serve only to introduce a discussion that leads Julia to a personal mystery of her own. Grant is hiding something, and she cannot properly prepare his book for publication until she discovers what is hidden in the pages of The White Murders.

During one of their interviews, Grant reminds Julia that “the 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 murderer. That’s the beauty of the genre.” While THE EIGHTH DETECTIVE purports to be a novel describing the formula for creating a mystery, never for one moment does it conform to that formula. Pavesi seems willing to break several traditional mystery norms in this exciting first effort, and we await future books with great anticipation.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on August 7, 2020

The Eighth Detective
by Alex Pavesi

  • Publication Date: August 3, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Picador
  • ISBN-10: 1250798477
  • ISBN-13: 9781250798473