Review: The Manual of Detection

I have somewhat mixed feelings when it comes to Jedediah Berry’s first novel.  On one hand this makes for an impressive debut work, with plenty of brilliant ideas (especially the literal theft of November 12th).   I also have to give bonus points to Berry for being a fellow UMass: Amherst English department alum.

On the other hand, I think Berry spends too much time in the novel paying tribute to his influences instead of finding his own voice.  I spent the first third of the novel thinking “I get that you like Kafka, please move on”.  Fortunately Berry does eventually manage to overcome this and begins to borrow from his sources instead of merely emulating them.

The end result is a very surreal, faintly dreamlike, noir meditation on the need to achieve a balance between chaos and order.  The closest think I can think of to compare it to is Jonathan Lethem’s Gun With Occasional Music, which definitely puts Berry in some good company.  I definitely recommend this to anyone that’s a fans of the New Weird.  And I’ll definitely be back for whatever Berry chooses to follow up this novel with to see where he goes from here.

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