Listening to Toby Jones doing an excellent job of reading The Manual of Detection on the radio (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01q0hvz/episodes/player) reminded me of the book review I wrote 5 years ago. It’s still a good book, and I think it’s still his only novel.
The Manual of Detection is fantasy noir, one of my favourite genre-blending combinations. First published in 2009, it won Jedediah Berry a couple of awards, and seems to be his only novel to date.
Charles Unwin is a clerk at the city’s gargantuan detective agency, efficient and ordered. He works on the fourteenth floor, is not permitted to speak to the detectives from the 29th floor, the watchers from the thirty-sixth, or visit the archives where his meticulous files find a permanent home. The only logical descriptor for such intricate, compartmentalised and rigid bureaucracy is Kafkaesque, but at least at the start it doesn’t feel sinister. Unwin is comforted by his known and predictable place in the vast machine, and proud of his achievements therein; this is Kafka wearing warm socks, drinking cocoa, and cuddling a purring cat.
Unwin has been assigned for many years to the agency’s star detective…
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