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.
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 FletcherCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved