The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry

January 16, 2011
By Liam Greenwell BRONZE, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Liam Greenwell BRONZE, Cambridge, Massachusetts
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Book Review for The Manual of Detection

Mystery. Who is following the detective? Who is dumping inanimate objects in the city’s bay? Who is playing poker on the wrong side of town? Why are they doing it? Why did the so-called “watcher” get killed? What is the Manual of Detection? How did Charles Unwin, an unsuspecting everyman, get caught up in it all? These questions demonstrate the levels of mystery in The Manual of Detection. The Manual of Detection, the debut novel by Jedediah Berry, is a book that is sometimes confusing, but an overall fantastic read.

The Manual of Detection starts with Charles Unwin, a clerk at a huge detective agency in an unnamed city where its always raining, being pulled aside in the train station by a detective and then being told that he was promoted to a detective, as well! He then ends up in the office of Mr. Lamech, his new “watcher,” where all he finds is the good man’s corpse. Because Unwin found the dead man, he is henceforth suspected of killing the watcher. From then on, the book focuses on Det. Unwin trying to find the detective he’s replacing and the one he used to work for as a clerk, Det. Sivart. While looking for Sivart, Unwin runs into a lot of trouble, from criminals to other detectives, but he somehow combats it all with only an umbrella in hand. In the end, Unwin knows much more about his world, finding things out through a tooth, a phonographic record, and a poker game. This wonderful book has so many elements, and to find out more you’ll have to read it!

In The Manual of Detection, the author writes in the third person, which is helpful and interesting, but sometimes confusing. That is also one of my main concerns about the book: it is very strenuous to keep everything straight. Also, things don’t always tie together, which doesn’t bother me, but for many people it would be genuinely annoying. If you read The Manual of Detection, expect a book that is a good read, but one that you won’t be able to deconstruct every aspect of. However, the main points and events connect, and stretch your imagination, while relying on the blatant human spirit in Charles Unwin. I very much enjoyed this mystery story, my favorite parts being the slew of interesting characters, the “out there” premise (which, by the way, don’t plan to find out until about halfway through the book), and the surprising relatable nature of it all. With dark humor galore, a twisting plot, and surprising characters, you may find yourself cheering for the unlikely hero Charles Unwin, or the many villains that dot the pages of this book. In conclusion, if you want a good and quick read, with great writing and an even better Orwell-esque dystopian setting, then The Manual of Detection is for you.

People are relentless and merciless when power is involved. That is the message I got from The Manual of Detection, and it is shown in many different ways through the book. Many people are fighting with each other, and it is always to have control. Unwin needs to gain control to set the balance in the city right again, and to do that even he needs to be merciless. At the beginning of the book, when Unwin finds his watcher, Mr. Lamech, dead, you realize that he must have been killed for power. This message also rings true in the real world, with armies killing millions of people for land, recourses, and power. In conclusion, the main message I got out of The Manual of Detection was that people are ruthless when they are fighting for power, yet you’ll need to read the book to find the big reasons why!

The Manual of Detection is a great book that has tints of Orwell, Kafka, and psychedelic 60’s music, but at heart is a plain old detective story. However, the story is anything but plain, with villains that rid the city of alarm clocks, and great halls full of phonograph records. In the end, you may not understand everything, but that is not a necessity to understand the ending. People may not like that, but I thought it added to the mood of the story. I would highly recommend The Manual of Detection, for a quick and fulfilling read that is fast paced all the way to the end. I know it’s a cliché, but I literally could not put the book down. Even if you are not into detective or mystery stories, I would recommend this book because it breaks all the molds. Therefore, I would give this book an 8 out of 10 because of its fantastic story and relatable characters. Don’t forget your umbrella!

In conclusion, The Manual of Detection is an unforgettable story that ties mystery to dystopian fiction, and does that quite well. The Manual of Detection is a fantastic read that may be confusing, but that certainly doesn’t cut away from the quality of the book. Will Unwin escape? There are many questions that populate your mind whilst reading this book, but this is the one that constantly stays there until the end. This is a wonderful book, and to find the answer to the question above (and many, many others) you’ll just have to read it!

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