The Eighth Detective is a clever book, both an anthology of short mysteries and a novel at the same time. The conceit is that long ago, mathematics professor Grant McAllister developed a set of mathematical rules for murder mysteries, writing seven short stories to illustrate them. But that was thirty years ago, and his work has been long forgotten. That is, until Julia Hart, an editor, discovers an old copy and decides to reissue them along with an introduction she plans to write. But first, she has some questions.
The book is organized into a reading of each short story aloud to McAllister and then a short post-reading discussion where McAllister explains how the story exemplifies the rule and Julia asking about minor errors and inconsistencies in the text and how they seem to connect to a long-ago unsolved murder.
The Eighth Detective is ingenious and original. I have never read a mystery quite like it. The individual stories were good mysteries, though some were quite macabre. Nonetheless, they hung together and really seemed to be illustrating the mathematical rules perfectly. And yet, it was all misdirection, as we learn when we get to the totally surprising, yet completely fair, denouement. I truly enjoyed every bit of the book, though I think the ending was a bit unresolved. In fact, there are alternate endings proposed in two epilogues which makes sense given what we learn, but neither of the epilogues really achieved the quality of the rest of the book.
I received an e-galley of The Eighth Detective from the publisher through NetGalley.