Mystery & Suspense
In an unnamed city always slick with rain, where men still wear fedoras, Charles Unwin wishes only to escape his good fortune. A humble but content clerk in the large, bureaucratic Agency,
Unwin is inexplicably promoted to detective, a rank for which he lacks both the skills and the stomach. Thus begins The Manual Of Detection, Jedediah Berry's "remarkably auspicious debut" (Booklist) which is, at once, a satisfying mystery and a boundary pushing literary feat.
What little Charles Unwin knows about solving mysteries comes from the reports he has filed for the illustrious detective Travis Sivart, who has suddenly gone missing. Aided by an able, if sleepy, new assistant and a copy of the singular Manual of Detection, Unwin sets out to find Sivart, assuming that with the detective back at his job, Unwin can go back to his old job. As he closes in on Sivart, dark forces draw close to him; he is framed for murder and his umbrella, which he always carries with him, seems no match for the gun-toting goons that chase him. As he dodges these threats, mind-bending questions proliferate: Why does the mummy at the Municipal Museum have modern-day dental work? Where have all the city's alarm clocks gone? Why is Unwin's copy of the Manual missing Chapter 18? And will it ever stop raining?
Unwin soon realizes that the greatest of Sivart's cases—including "The Three Deaths of Colonel Baker" and "The Man who Stole November 12th"—were, in fact, never solved correctly. He tackles puzzles that have eluded even the legendary Sivart by entering dreams—his own and other people's—where he finds all those missing alarm clocks and a criminal mastermind bent on total control of a slumbering city.
In this striking debut, Jedediah Berry delivers precise prose, imaginative storytelling, and airtight plotting, pulling the reader into his fascinating and fantastic world from page one.
Read the first chapter of The Manual of Dectection (Continued...):
Unwin bent down for a better look at the face under the hat brim and saw the heavy, unshaven jaw he knew only from newspaper photographs. It was the Agency operative whose case files were his particular responsibility.
"Detective Sivart," Unwin said, "what are you doing in my bathtub?"
Sivart let the brush fall into the water and took the cigar from his teeth. "No names," he said. "Not mine anyway. Don't know who might be listening in." He relaxed deeper into the bubbles. "You have no idea how difficult it was to arrange this meeting, Unwin. Did you know they don't tell us detectives who our clerks are? All these years I've been sending my reports to the fourteenth floor. To you, it turns out. And you forget things."
Unwin put up his hands to protest, but Sivart waved his cigar at him and said, "When Enoch Hoffmann stole November twelfth, and you looked at the morning paper and saw that Monday had gone straight into Wednesday, you forgot Tuesday like all the rest of them."
"Even the restaurants skipped their Tuesday specials," Unwin said.
Sivart's ember burned hotter, and more steam rose from the tub. "You forgot my birthday, too," he said. "No card, no nothing."
"Nobody knows your birthday."
"You could have figured it out. Anyway, you know my cases better than anyone. You know I was wrong about her, all wrong. So you're the best chance I've got. Try this time, would you? Try to remember something. Remember this: Chapter Eighteen. Got it?"
"Say it back to me: Chapter Eighteen."
"Chapter Elephant," Unwin said, in spite of himself.
"Hopeless," Sivart muttered.
Normally Unwin never could have said "Elephant" when he meant to say "Eighteen," not even in his sleep. Hurt by Sivart's accusations, he had blurted the wrong word because, in some dusty file drawer of his mind, he had long ago deposited the fact that elephants never forget.
"The girl," Sivart was saying, and Unwin had the impression that the detective was getting ready to explain something important. "I was wrong about her."
Then, as though summoned to life by Unwin's own error, there came trumpeting, high and fullthe unmistakable decree of an elephant.
"No time!" Sivart said. He drew back the shower curtain behind the tub. Instead of a tiled wall, Unwin saw the whirling lights of carnival rides and striped pavilions beneath which broad shapes hunkered and leapt. There were shooting galleries out there, and a wheel of fortune, and animal cages, and a carousel, all moving, all turning under turning stars. The elephant trumpeted again, only this time the sound was shrill and staccato, and Unwin had to switch off his alarm clock to make it stop.
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