Customer Reviews


56 Reviews
5 star:
 (30)
4 star:
 (11)
3 star:
 (9)
2 star:
 (4)
1 star:
 (2)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Surreal and Brilliantly Written Debut Novel
For Charles Unwin, the reluctant hero in Jedediah Berry's eloquent and surreal first novel, The Manual of Detection, time is curiously stretched beyond recognition and dreams are labyrinthine and vulnerable to devious invasion. Mysterious femme fatales, surly criminals and singing somnambulants lurk around every corner, each offering more bizarre clues for Unwin who is...
Published on March 19, 2009 by Mira Bartok

versus
44 of 51 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Clever but tedious
Other reviewers have dealt well with the plot so I will deal more with my criticism of the story development itself. The novel starts out well, with the author creating a slightly surreal but believable book-noir world in a mysterious yet some how familiar city.(Think Bladerunner crossed with Something Wicked This Way Comes for the atmosphere.)The characters are...
Published on July 27, 2009 by D.E.


‹ Previous | 1 26 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Surreal and Brilliantly Written Debut Novel, March 19, 2009
For Charles Unwin, the reluctant hero in Jedediah Berry's eloquent and surreal first novel, The Manual of Detection, time is curiously stretched beyond recognition and dreams are labyrinthine and vulnerable to devious invasion. Mysterious femme fatales, surly criminals and singing somnambulants lurk around every corner, each offering more bizarre clues for Unwin who is trying to solve the murder of a famous detective so he can clear his own name and get his job back as a lowly and fastidious clerk at The Agency, a Kafka-esque organization that tracks down villains and protects the city's nocturnal secrets, for better or for worse.

This is a detective story that defies genre. Many of the crimes committed in this tale happen inside people's dreams, which brings to mind a couple films, such as Brazil, The City of Lost Children, and Delicatessen. The book also resonates a little like Borges but in a much more welcoming, ironic and darkly humorous way. It is part film noir, part fabulist-fairy tale, and part page-turner mystery, written in an elegant and restrained style.

I loved the world that Berry created for his readers: a mythic, rainy sleep-deprived metropolis populated by a cast of brilliantly conceived characters. I just didn't want it to end. Read the book and pass it on. And look for the secret bonus---there's a palindrome inside and who doesn't love palindromes?
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dashiell Hammett meets Terry Gilliam, May 18, 2009
The Manual of Detection reads like the love-child of Dashiell Hammett and Terry Gilliam. First time novelist Jedediah Berry stirs all the tropes of a hard-boiled detective story with surrealistic fantasy elements to create a delightfully eccentric concoction that goes down easy despite the serious message at its core.

Anyone familiar with the famous quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin,"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety," will probably appreciate the story of Charles Unwin, a fastidious and rule-abiding office clerk, who is unwittingly thrust into a web of intrigue when the celebrated detective he works for goes missing. While investigating the sudden disappearance, Unwin stumbles on a nefarious plot to gain control over the minds of the citizens by infiltrating their dreams. It's the ultimate invasion of privacy and its origins are as surprising as they are sinister. I can't help but wonder if the Patriot Act was high on Berry's mind when the idea for this book was conceived. But despite how dire that sounds, this is hardly a heavy, preachy affair. It's full of quirky humour and unexpected twists, not to mention a host of oddball characters.

Along the way, we meet the cigar-chomping detective Sivart, a pair of [formerly] conjoined twin thugs, an addled museum guard, some very sorry looking elephants, a psychic giantess, an army of sleepwalkers, a villainous ventriloquist, plus three ladies straight out of a classic noir - Emily, the plucky, can-do assistant, Cleo Greenwood, the honey-voiced femme fatale, and the mysterious "woman in the plaid coat." Throw in about ten thousand purloined alarm clocks and a "Travels-no-More" carnival and you've got a story with some seriously weird atmospherics, a unique cast, a bit of mystery and a lot of fun.

This novel is a delight from start to finish.

I should mention that I didn't actually read this one, but listened to the unabridged edition audio book. This was my first experience with an audio book and what a wonderful surprise! Pete Larkin did a terrific job creating voices for each of the characters - he even had me laughing out loud at some points. Plus it was broken up into short enough sections that stopping it and coming back to it later was never a problem. I enjoyed it so much in fact, that I've visited the Highbridge Audio website several times to shop their catalogue and can report that they have a varied and excellent selection.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


44 of 51 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Clever but tedious, July 27, 2009
By 
D.E. (CA United States) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Other reviewers have dealt well with the plot so I will deal more with my criticism of the story development itself. The novel starts out well, with the author creating a slightly surreal but believable book-noir world in a mysterious yet some how familiar city.(Think Bladerunner crossed with Something Wicked This Way Comes for the atmosphere.)The characters are interesting and their lives are developed enough to hold interest yet not so developed that there is no mystery. Sadly, somewhere about halfway to two thirds of the way through, the story descends into a seemingly never ending sequence of nested dream worlds and the associated plot twists were less surprising than ultimately annoying. For me, this just became very tedious and exasperating and resulted in a very slow read. By the last 30-40 pages I simply didn't care how the story would ultimately be resolved. The author definitely has talent as a writer of fiction but I think he needs to be reigned in by a good editor who would have trimmed some of the more outlandish elements from this novel.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a dreamcrossed twilight, March 13, 2009
By 
David W. Straight (knoxville, tennessee United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This novel reminds me a lot of Terry Gilliam's movie Brazil: a lowly clerk suddenly finds his world turned upside-down. A rather humdrum life has become a nightmare where nothing is as it seems: somewhere between dreaming and wakefulness, between reality and something you know is a dream, a trip on LSD. Unwin is a clerk--one of many in a huge room--on the 14th floor of the Agency. On the 29th floor is the person he clerks for, Detective Sivart. On the 36th floor is the Watcher Lamech, who oversees Sivart, and well below Unwin are the underclerks. Communications are all done through messengers. For anyone--clerk, underclerk, detective, or watcher--to be on the wrong floor of the Agency is a terrible and unthinkable breech. Everything is regimented--very regimented. Then Unwin's regimented life takes an abrupt upheaval.

Unwin is told that he's been promoted to Detective, and to move to Sivart's office on the 29th floor: Sivart has gone missing. Unwin reports to Sivart's boss, Watcher Lamech, only to find that Lamech has been murdered. So Unwin sets out to find Sivart, and you find yourself sucked into the whirlpool. Unwin meets the elusive Cleopatra Greenwood, Sivart's femme fatale (for lack of a more appropriate term for this very strange woman) and Sivart's archenemy Hoffman. The further you read, the more yu feel as though you've entered a hallucination. Everything is off-kilter: you enter a world of narcolepsy and somnambulism. Unwin follows somnambulists who go to the Cat & Tonic carrying bags of alarm clocks to gamble with. There's Caligari's Circus, taken over by Hoffman (Cleopatra Greenwood used to be a performer).

I don't think that there's any time in the novel where you have any idea at all what will happen next, but as things unfold they're either logically illogical or illogically logical--I think! If you like nice predictable novels, this definitely will not be your cup of LSD. This is very creative--bizarrely imaginative--and it had me turning quickly to Waitzkin's Attacking Chess and Guinn's new book on Bonnie and Clyde to try to unpretzel my mind. Think of the movie Brazil, or Jonathan Barnes' fine novel The Somnambulist, and toss in some LSD on top of those: a powerful and effective work!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From the first few lines of this novel I found myself completely..., March 12, 2009
From the first few lines of this novel I found myself completely enraptured by the provocative imagery provided. From the sopping wet rain that as the story goes on you swear you begin to feel in your own socks, to the hats and bicycles you wish were still common place, this book puts you easily into a city as gloomy and foggy as it is beautiful.

With such a wonderfully detailed setting, you would almost expect the plot to lag behind, but without wasting any time, you are whisked right into a high-stakes detective mystery that soon takes on twists and narrative hooks reminiscent of Raymond Chandler and the mythical fable of Calvino.

All I can say beyond that is upon finishing the final chapter, I felt a tingle up my spine and a wish for more adventures from the one of a kind file clerk Unwin.

This book was on the "Staff Recommended" shelf and I am thankful for whoever selected it!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dreamy, September 27, 2009
By 
Jedediah Berry's debut novel, The Manual of Detection, provides willing readers with a quirky and odd story of a clerk, Charles Unwin, who becomes a detective. The balance between order and disorder, and between dreams and reality remains off kilter for Unwin and for readers. The Manual of Detection presents a puzzle in a form that isn't what most mystery readers are accustomed to, but for me, became absorbing as the story unfolds. Berry allows us to engage our brains with him as we enter Unwin's world and try our best to make sense of what is happening. Adventurous readers are likely to find much to enjoy: a new author, and a genre that may defy the limitations of an orderly niche.

Rating: Three-star (Recommended)
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars " 'It may be a crime / But I'm sure that you're mine / In my dream of your dream of me.' ", March 21, 2009
In the cloudy, rainy, anonymous metropolis of Jedediah Berry's The Manual of Detection, dream spies (oneiric detectives), dream crimes, and dream dreams busily deconstruct the very existence of its strange, stiff, somnambulistic residents. Are they real people being manipulated? Are they just figments of a larger dream? When they "wake up," do they really wake up, or do they just think they do?

Berry's meek, unambitious protagonist, Charles Unwin, is an experienced clerk at the Agency, a surveillance/detection octopus. One soggy day, Unwin's routine is turned upside down when he's nabbed at the train station while carrying out a little off-duty shadowing of his own. The Agency nabber tells him he's been promoted and gives him a gun and a detective badge. Poor, confused Unwin soon finds out the celebrated detective for whom he clerked, Travis T. Sivart, is missing, and he, Unwin, is to search for him.

Unwin (an apt moniker for this generally hapless fellow) is also initiated into his new rank with a copy of The Manual of Detection, Fourth Edition, This is a green book with an unblinking eye stamped on the cover and the Agency's motto, "Never Sleeping," below it. "Each chapter focuse[s] on one of the finer points of the investigative arts...." But when someone instructs him to consult the eighteenth chapter, he is further confused. There are only seventeen chapters. Aren't there?

Charles has to wake up (no pun intended) to certain misapprehensions he'd been sold during his long clerkship (a type of apprenticeship). Unwin undertakes his own surreal hero's journey as he searches for Sivart and answers to other puzzles in the city, particularly deep in the secret bowels of the Agency. He has to find out for himself whether his faith and trust in the Agency's operating procedures are misplaced. Is anything solid and indivisible? What should he believe about a Sivart report that declares, " 'Everything I tell you is true...and everything you see is as real as you are.' "

The city itself (a "character" in its own right) doesn't function in a healthy, holistic fashion. A vital piece of itself -- the rundown, rusting Carnival at the edge of town, the piece that is intuitive and spontaneous -- is outwardly dormant. But a deadly war is nevertheless being waged between it and the behemoth bureaucratic Agency. The Carnival can be interpreted as representative of the unconscious or the subconscious, in contrast to the primarily conscious Agency. And here is the classic opposition of methodology vs. creativity. Or of order vs. chaos. Or of logic vs. imagination. Perpetual tensions grant ascendancy to one for a while, but dominance is not permanent, and when the shift begins, there is social upheaval and shocking violence.

Berry's daring with dreams arguably challenges one's tolerance for suspending disbelief. The innumerable, stylized coincidences and the fantasy world in which dreams can infiltrate and be infiltrated can intermittently nudge the reader out of the narrative. However, the extra effort expended to penetrate to the dream in the dream in the dream is profitable, suspenseful, and enjoyable. Berry isn't one to drop plot points or miss opportunities. So much connects, including the twinning (twins and doubles figure heavily in this book) of the chapter headings in Berry's novel and Unwin's manual.

This atmospheric and Kafkaesque, Escheresque novel spins itself out on myriad levels. Where does "reality" begin and end? Plus, it calls into question whether 'we' are really awake.... Distinguished and superior, THE MANUAL OF DETECTION embroils the reader in a gritty but otherworldly drama with a film noir feel and endless connotations and implications. 4.5 stars. Have at it. :)
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A whole lot of fun, May 7, 2010
While this delightfully unconventional novel owes a lot to both American hard-boiled noir (Chandler, Hammett) and English who-done-its (Sayers, Conan Doyle), it isn't hyperbole to say it defies comparison. Yes, it plays with many detective-genre archetypes with which we're all familiar. But it's the stunning originality and finely-honed skill in creating a whole new playground on which to do so that, in my opinion, surpasses Michael Chabon's fine The Yiddish Policeman's Union and evokes for me thoughts of Borges and Garcia Marquez. Or maybe that's too much; perhaps I should just say it's Dashiell Hammett as plotted by Kafka and populated with characters from a Tim Burton movie. In other words, a whole lot of fun.

Simply put, this book recalled for me the great pleasure I experienced the first time I read Sherlock Holmes and The Big Sleep and entered into their strange and thrilling milieus of danger and mystery and confounding plot twists and wonderfully eccentric characters with slightly off-kilter ways of thinking and talking. Only here the world is far stranger than the criminal underbelly of Victorian London or 1940s L.A.--it's a world in which the dual states of waking and dreaming are equally real, and crimes committed in one can have significant repercussions in the other.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book., November 24, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is one of my favorite books, and I've read many books.

I hope the author writes more novels so smart people have something to read.

Great characters that remind me of a sort of film noir meets Sherlock Holmes.

Have read 3 times, and I've only done that with maybe 2 other books.

Love it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Never Sleeping, August 31, 2010
By 
Rachel Gray "Reg" (San Francisco, CA United States) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Charles Unwin is not a detective. He doesn't know how to be a detective. (Although he has been making unofficial trips for unofficial reasons...) He's merely the clerk who reviews and files all the reports of the Agency's star detective, Travis Sivart. But when Unwin finds himself suddenly promoted to the rank of detective, he reluctantly decides to solve just the one case that will return his life to the status quo: Where is Sivart? He will allow himself to read just enough of his new copy of "The Manual of Detection" to do the job and no more. But as the case becomes deeper and wider in scope than Unwin could ever have forseen, and the future of the city is threatened, he finds himself rising to the challenge--and when people's dreaming lives overtake their waking ones, Unwin must follow...

I bought this book because I saw the author read two selections from it and was excited. I knew I had to read it, and suspected it was something special. I was right. The premise is fantastic, the characters are sympathetic, the action is exciting, the ideas are fascinating, the writing is excellent, the mysteries are interesting...I honestly can't say enough good things about this book. Also, I don't have a single complaint. Oh, and the cover is beautiful.

Seriously, this amazing book defies both summarization and categorization, but I'll do my best. It is both mystery and fantasy. There's no magic and nothing actually supernatural, but the nameless city Unwin lives in seems surreal in its noir-ishness and it's constant rain. The setting and characters and locations are hard-boiled, but its detective is not. It is also humerous--but while there are some moments of great humor, but there are no specific laugh-out-loud lines to point out, because it's situationally hilarious.

Unwin's lack of real experience with detecting and with the gritty city outside of his apartment and his office, and even with the hierarchical world of the Agency, allows us to learn about them along with him--and yet his academic knowledge of them, via his close reading of Sivart's reports, allows him to sometimes be a step or two ahead of us and to keep us guessing.

Then there's the dream detecting. This book crosses into similar territory as the movie Inception, but from a different angle, and with a different science. In both concepts, your dreams can be used against you. But in The Manual of Detection, everything that happens in dreams can affect what happens in real life--might even be happening in real life. There is dream surveillance, dream communication, and there are dreams within dreams within dreams within dreams. The dimensions of sleeping and dreaming that the book gets into are new and interesting.

I love this book and recommend it to anyone who has an open mind and likes quality writing.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 26 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

The Manual of Detection
The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry (Audio CD - February 19, 2009)
Used & New from: $6.12
Add to wishlist See buying options
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.