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Three things to keep in mind about this book: Travel is far more enriching than arrival, detectives are essentially professional critics, and always be very careful when you decide to quit smoking.

Trident “Trike” Augustine is a very American, excruciatingly dysfunctional variant of the “consulting investigator” who’s been outsmarting criminals and out-thinking authority figures since the Victorian era. Yet even though this hip, dissolute Sherlock has managed to put away whole armies of fiends, thieves, psychos and grifters, Trike’s teeming brain has hit an immobilizing speed bump: the disappearance of a reclusive billionaire named Joyce. The only substantial clues are a large pool of blood and a secret compartment within Joyce’s mansion that the feds unaccountably seal off from further scrutiny by either Trike or the local cops. (By the way, it’s not clear, or particularly important, what city this is, though Cook, a first-time novelist, sells books in the Greater Boston region.) Trike can’t help but use such impediments as an excuse for pressing his inquiry. But the deeper he looks, the more confounded he becomes. There is, for instance, the matter of the dead pig that somehow shows up on Trike’s apartment floor in the dark of night, doing nothing but bleeding on his rug. The best, if tentative, conclusion that Trike and his two Watsons, a sassy painter named Lola and a circumspect ex-FBI agent named Max, can reach about the pig is that it’s one of several crass warnings to stay off the Joyce case. Which, this being a detective story, has the opposite effect on Trike. But the only thing that becomes clear about the novel's plot is that it’s somewhat less and considerably more than an average detective story. Rather, it’s a sustained inquiry into the nature of detecting itself—and into the process of writing. Keep in mind the millionaire’s name and the book’s quicksilver references to Ulysses—and to Edgar Allan Poe’s genre-defining mystery tale “The Purloined Letter.” Such literary gamesmanship may exasperate the traditional mystery lover, but the writing throughout is so crystalline, the dialogue so acerbically funny and the characters so engaging as to make the pages seem as though they’re turning themselves.

A beautifully written postmodern novel of deduction that merrily, wittily blows up its genre’s conventions while at the same time re-energizing possibilities for the 21st-century detective story.

Pub Date: March 3rd, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-61219-427-1
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Melville House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2015


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