Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi reviewed

Eight Detectives Book Cover Eight Detectives
Alex Pavesi
Penguin UK - Michael Joseph
August 20, 2020

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.

Julia realises she's unwittingly entered a battle of wits where there can only be one winner. But Grant will soon realise that he underestimates her at his peril...

Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi is an unusual take on detective fiction. Many years ago Grant McAllister, a professor of Mathematics, came up with rules applying to murder fiction. He then wrote seven stories that were perfect examples of this to him. The book had little interest and he now lives on a Mediterranean island in peace and seclusion. His peace is disturbed by the arrival of Julia Hart, an editor, whose publisher wants to reprint the book. Julia reads each story to Grant and then asks him about them. There are some inconsistencies in the stories and his answers to questions.

The stories themselves are very Christie-esque. They are of a time and style that any Agatha fan would understand and recognise. We have variations on a victim(s) and a detective(s) in various settings. There is even an homage to “Ten Little Indians”. The stories themselves are good enough. However it is the extended story about Grant’s memories and Julia’s interest that is the real story here for me.

With the telling of each story we expand the narrative of what takes place between Julia and Grant. There are tensions here. Grant seems uncomfortable with the scrutiny of his stories. Julia seems determined to extract background both on the stories and on Grant’s life. I enjoyed this.

All in all I found this a curiously different idea. The explanation of detective stories via mathematics was intriguing. The whole broader picture I really did find entertaining. What about the ending I hear you ask. Well in true Christie style my lips are sealed however I did find the ending satisfying. Aspects of it I had my suspicions about – some parts took me by surprise. This may be a book for fans of a particular genre however I think many of them would find this entertaining as I did.

Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review