Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi

Have you read this? If not, you definitely need to…

All murder mysteries follow a simple set of rules. Grant McAllister, an author of crime fiction and professor of mathematics, once sat down and worked them all out.
But that was thirty years ago. Now he’s living a life of seclusion on a quiet Mediterranean island – until Julia Hart, a sharp, ambitious editor, knocks on his door. His early work is being republished and together the two of them must revisit those old stories: an author, hiding from his past, and an editor, keen to understand it.
But as she reads, Julia is unsettled to realise that there are things in the stories that don’t make sense. Intricate clues that seem to reference a real murder, one that’s remained unsolved for thirty years.
If Julia wants answers, she must triumph in a battle of wits with a dangerously clever adversary. But she must tread carefully: she knows there’s a mystery, but she doesn’t yet realise there’s already been a murder . . .

Imagine a traditional murder mystery with all the key ingredients, combined with a modern crime novel that has a fantastic ending and twists along the way. Now add two excellently written characters and secret clues throughout the book itself… You have one of the most unique and inventive modern murder mysteries you’ll read this year (if not longer), Eight Detectives.

How Pavesi came up with this I have no idea. It’s truly inspired – seven clever short murder mysteries entwined within the overall larger murder mystery which becomes the eighth story. There are so many clever details, so much excellent content to enjoy and I actually feel like I need to read it again to fully appreciate this book!

Anyone who’s interested in murder mysteries, crime novels, detective novels, thrillers (you name it), will appreciate how clever and unique this book is. We know the traditional tropes of the old murder mystery style, and we even know and expect a lot of the modern tropes in new detective novels and thrillers. What Pavesi does is take these tropes and themes, turn them on their head, and use them to his advantage to take the reader on a journey of solving the eighth mystery. We’re directed to the ‘rules’ and key characters of murder mysteries, and shown how these can be used in multiple ways through the seven short stories within the book. I’ve never been one for short stories, instead preferring a longer book I can get stuck into, but the way Pavesi linked these short stories to the main story was so fascinating that I loved it. I was closely reading each short story, determined to spot clues along the way, left frustrated when I wasn’t spotting them, satisfied if I did, and finally happy yet intrigued as Julia started to point out the links between the stories.

This book isn’t just a story, it’s a journey. Somehow, each short story is written with different tones and plots so wildly different it never feels repetitive. The structure itself, instead of feeling unvaried, feels fast-paced and intriguing. I was eagerly waiting for the next short story while also trying to closely focus on the chapters in between, which were conversations between Julia and Grant, to ensure I didn’t miss a single detail.

Both Julia and Grant were brilliant. Grant was furtive yet knowledgeable and Julia was calm and intelligent. Formidable opponents certainly and yet somehow, just when you think you’ve got them each sussed out, Pavesi once again turns the plot around so all your expectations are overthrown. Because of the structure, the way in which every other chapter is a short story, the ending almost comes as a surprise. Despite knowing there are only seven stories, there was a part of me that had been lulled into a false sense of security so by the time I got to the last one, and therefore the ending, I was left truly shocked. The change in structure and pace and the reveals that happen at the end are genuinely clever and surprising. I didn’t suspect the ending, and I was certainly left blown away by some of the reveals. Pavesi’s writing is full of secrets, some so genius it’s actually masterful.

This book is truly artful in the writing, the plot and the characters – I was left shocked yet satisfied, but still wanting more. To be honest, I wasn’t ready to finish this book as it’s genuinely so clever and enjoyable to read. It’s engaging, inviting the reader to solve the eighth mystery in a way that is truly different to traditional murder mysteries. This is a book that should be on your birthday list, your Christmas list – basically you need to read this! If I used a star rating, this would undoubtedly be a 5 star book.

Eight Detectives
Alex Pavesi
Michael Joseph, 20th August 2020

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You can find reviews, recommendations and more on my blog. I started blogging in 2019 and this year I'll be introducing a few new features... so watch this space! I'm an Editorial Assistant at a magazine and I do a lot of publishing related things in my spare time, including being an Events Coordinator with SYP London. Connect with me on Twitter or browse a few reviews. Have fun!

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