Even a quick perusal will tell you that JedediaH Berry’s debut novel The Manual of Detection is a kind of genre fiction. But the more deeply you dig into the book. The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry. Michael Moorcock traces the roots of an atmospheric steampunk tale. Michael Moorcock. Review: The Manual of Detection by Jedediah BerryBerry’s debut detective novel is indeed imaginative, fantastical, sometimes inexplicable.

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Jedediah Berry

The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry. A mystery writer who consults his dreams when conceiving his books?

A creator of whodunits who seeks inspiration in Kafka and Calvino? Certainly Jedediah Berry has earned his place as one of the usual suspects at Post- modern Mysteryeven if only on the strength of his debut novel, The Manual of Detection.

No bodies were found. But the more deeply you dig into detectipn book, the harder it is to decide which genre. The book constantly shifts gears from detective story to fantasy to science fiction to adventure tale and back again to mystery.

Rarely have I encountered a novel that so insistently avoids confronting that most basic of questions: The story starts simply enough, and with all of the familiar trappings of the mystery tale.

Yet one day Unwin is surprised to find that he has been promoted to the status of detective himself. He fears that some bureaucratic mistake has resulted in his elevation to a role for which he feels unqualified and unprepared. Yet when he tries to confront his new boss, with hopes of tbe to his old clerical job, he finds the man murdered in his office.


The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry | Book review | Books | The Guardian

So far, we are on familiar ground, following the conventions of the whodunit. Yet author Jedediah Berry seems just as eager to discard genre fiction formulas as he is to embrace them.

The rules and regulations which the Agency follows are as opaque and senselessly bureaucratic as the legal processes in The Trialand our hero often seems less involved in a crime story than in metaphysical search for first principles. Then there are interludes that border on Latin American magical realism or even the theologically-charged writing of G.

I find little satisfaction in reeling of this list of such contrary names, but I blame the book, which is far more contrary than any review bfrry be. If a novel could suffer from multiple personality disorder it might end up looking like The Manual of Detection. Then again, maybe this is how detective stories behave in the post-modern verry.

Even the cover here sends that signal. The book looks like an actual manual of detection, a textbook that might be assigned at the police academy. Yet the story itself also includes a similar manual that plays an important role in the plot—and the manual in the tale has the same number of chapters and overall appearance as the novel.

: The Manual of Detection (): Jedediah Berry: Books

Are you following me? Certainly Berry is fascinated by processes that feed on themselves.

A bery scene in this novel takes place in a carnival hall of mirrors, and other elements of the story have a similar aura of reflexivity. We have dreams within dreams, multiple sets of twins, double agents—almost every berey of The Manual of Detection coexists with its opposite, its negation.

The musings of the protagonists often mimic this yin-and-yang quality. If the value system portrayed in this story insists on the legitimacy of murkiness and disorder, the author himself eventually succumbs to the opposite in his plotting, which turns out to be far more intricate than you will suspect while reading the first two hundred pages of this work.


The result is much like the famously obscure closing scenes of Humphrey Bogart’s noir classic The Big Sleep. During the filming of this movie, the director and screenwriters were so confused about the story line, they finally sent a telegram to author Raymond Chandler asking him to clarify detectoin aspect of the plot. As the novelist explained to a friend: The result in this instance is a fascinating novel that never falls into a rut.

But I think Berry could have berrg a masterpiece if he had been more willing to let post-modern ambiguity to prevail. Ted Gioia’s latest book is Love Songs: Click on image to purchase.

N ew A ngles on an O ld G enre. P ostmodern M ystery. Postmodern Mystery is a web site devoted to experimental, unconventional and postmodern approaches to stories of mystery and suspense.

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