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The Missing Piece: A Novel Paperback – April 1, 2003

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (April 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156013371
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156013376
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,302,621 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Debut novelist Bello's intricate murder mystery satirically imagines an alternate 1990s world in which spectators tired of chess and Scrabble tournaments have made jigsaw puzzle competitions the latest craze of the nerdy set. The puzzle contests, requiring a great amount of dexterity, have swept through Europe, and now developer and millionaire Charles Wallerstein, president of the American Puzzle Federation, hopes to bring the "professional puzzle circuit" to the States. As if the puzzle craze wasn't perplexing enough, a deranged madman is systematically drugging and dismembering the high-ranking competitors in these contests. But who and why? Does it have something to do with Wallerstein's rival Upton Sutter and his ultra-conservative Puzzology Society? The society has turned up its nose at the jigsaw puzzle craze in favor of comically arcane experiments like the Gleaners Project, in which one man builds a brick wall while another follows behind him and disassembles it, as Puzzology members study their work patterns and the fluctuating configurations of the half-built wall. The novel's 48 chapters consist of newspaper articles about the slayings, magazine interviews with key puzzle-world figures, minutes from meetings of puzzle societies, and other documents relevant to the case, and the reader is invited to piece together these clues. Bello's conceit is clever and amusing, though the intrigue loses steam before the end of the novel. Some readers will find the story's hermetic world exhausting and claustrophobic, but those who love brainteasers will cheer.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Originally published in France in 1998, this satirical serial-murder puzzle was first runner-up for the prestigious Prix Novembre. Bello works on several levels here. First, he concocts an elaborate international jigsaw puzzle craze, the International Speed Puzzle Circuit. Second, he devises an accompanying murder mystery in which a serial killer seeks out key players on the circuit, kills them, and then amputates individual body parts, forming his own macabre jigsaw puzzle. Third, the book itself is a puzzle, in "forty-eight pieces," or small chapters. Bello keeps the reader at arm's length; there is no direct authorial voice here, only a collection of newspaper articles, interviews, radio reports, play-by-plays of puzzle matches, letters, and minutes of meetings of the International Puzzle Society. The reader puzzles out the mystery from these fragments, until the killer himself takes over the puzzle and the narration. Some readers may find Bello's narrative technique overly intellectual; others will warm to the intricate challenge. Connie Fletcher
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Steven Reynolds on June 10, 2002
Format: Paperback
The jacket blurb invokes the magical names Borges and Calvino - and for once such superlative comparisons are almost justified. Borges and Calvino probably would have admired the audacious concept of Antoine Bello's dazzling first novel and it will delight lovers of metafiction everywhere. Ostensibly a murder mystery set against the background of the imaginary 'International Speed Puzzle Circuit', its forty-eight 'pieces' (letters, articles, meeting minutes) ultimately form a meditation on the nature of puzzles - both literary and otherwise. You'll probably work out 'whodunit' well before the final pages, but don't worry: that only makes the sadistic climax more chilling. Refreshingly intelligent and wonderfully original, Bello has crafted a novel which is not only capable of endlessly delighting its readers, but one which, through its unusual structure, challenges the notion of that what it means to be part of the genre. (My only reservation is the number of typographical errors in the Serpent's Tail paperback edition.)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
I picked up this book because of its intriguing plot, centered about a wholly fictitious puzzle-crazed world. The first half or so of the book kept me very interested, but after that, the book seemed to lose some of its hold. While I thought the structure was a neat idea (a collection of interviews, radio transcripts, articles, etc. rather than narration/chapters), I didn't care for the arrangement of the pieces. The author could have arranged them chronologically or by other categories, instead of randomly. I realize this randomness relates to the jigsaw puzzle metaphor (i.e. the reader/puzzler is given a set of pieces in random order and instructed to fit them together). But the format (a novel) prohibits the 48 chapters/pieces from being an apt application of the puzzle metaphor (unless the reader wants to rip out and bind each chapter separately to arrange at his own discretion or take notes, both of which detract from the purpose of a novel: entertainment).
Nor would I consider this an excellent mystery novel. For example, Bello has not mastered the art of planting seemingly unimportant clues that become so glaringly evident during the denouement that the reader cries "Of course! I could have figured it out myself!" Instead, the reader sometimes feels bogged down in some of the minutia Bello puts forth for the reader to sort through. That I figured out the 'whodunit' makes me even less impressed with novel.
Additionally, I found Bello to be a rather conceited author and this was at times bothersome since I don't feel he has earned the right to do so yet (perhaps in future efforts he will). He does not quite merit the comparison to Borges a reviewer on the back cover proposes.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mark Rose on May 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
I'm surprised by some of the negativity in the other reviews posted here, because Antoine Bello's debut mystery novel is a tremendous surprise, clever, witty, gripping and beautifully constructed. Creating a parallel world where building jigsaw puzzles is one of the big spectator sports, Bello perfectly satirizes how sports are reported, how the participants act and interact with others, the development of prodigies, and then he creates a puzzle itself out of the topic, forcing readers to think far more interactively about the mystery than most books in the genre.

It's certainly different, and that might put off some people, but it's a daring and fresh work in the oft-tired mystery world. And if you or anyone you know likes to build jigsaw puzzles, this is an absolute must buy.
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The Missing Piece: A Novel
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