Review | Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi

An intriguing collection of murder mysteries in a clever frame. 4/5 stars.

Eight Detectives Alex Pavesi book cover

Thank you to Penguin UK – Michael Joseph for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

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…

My take:

In Eight Detectives we are given a series of seven short murder mystery stories strung together by a unifiying narrative device.

And I liked the unifying device, as Julia and Grant talk about the book he wrote years ago, very much. It was clever and intriguing, including the use of mathematics to explain the various permutations of the plots. When the final twists are revealed (and there are quite a few!), I was impressed by just how much work had gone into the small details needed to set them all up.

I liked the seven different stories to varying degrees. My favourite was the take on And Then There Were None, which was very imaginative and downright creepy in places.

I would say this book is for fans of classic murder mysteries. And by that I mean murder mysteries where character, feeling and motive are almost unimportant; the puzzle is what keeps us turning the pages. As a result, there is some incredibly gruesome stuff in these stories which is recounted almost entirely without emotion. And I found that this detachment also kept me at arm’s length. At least in Christie there’s often some humour and it’s possible to grow quite attached to some of her detectives who are allowed to develop personality.

Overall: if you prefer murder mysteries with a splash of character development and emotional drama, I wouldn’t immediately recommend Eight Detectives. On the other hand, if you’re a fan of classic murder mysteries and enjoy a good puzzle, I would say you’ll find it intriguing and should give it a try.

Claire Huston / Art and Soul

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