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Mystery Girl: A Novel Hardcover – July 16, 2013

3.3 out of 5 stars 88 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Sam Kornberg, the initial narrator and main character of this complex, identity-shifting murder mystery (and more), set around contemporary Los Angeles, is a part-time bookstore clerk, writer of experimental fiction, and overall “failure”; then he takes a much-needed job to save his troubled marriage—as assistant detective to the intriguing and oversized (in every way) Solar Lonsky. When the narrative voice shifts to Lonsky, the book becomes an intricate puzzle set amid a deeply underground and obsessive cinema subculture. This is not Raymond Chandler’s L.A.—it’s postpunk and postgoth, and involves the occult and the luridly sexual—but Chandler’s shadow inevitably hangs over it, as do the literary shades of Proust, Beckett, and Pynchon, and the equally strong cinematic influences of the Hitchcock of Vertigo and the Welles of Touch of Evil. The book is filled with literary and cinematic references, befitting the neophyte writer Kornberg. Gordon’s appealing wit and obvious intellect propel this gripping tale to a finely wrought and mostly unexpected conclusion. Gordon is a promising writer. --Mark Levine

Review

"Some things are inexplicable. The human heart is one. Los Angeles is another. In his latest whodunit, Gordon ('The Serialist') takes on both with an LA noir reminiscent of Raymond Chandler and James Ellroy [in which] a failed experimental novelist, Sam Kornberg must track a mystery woman through LaLa land psych wards and late-night jaunts to Mexico." —New York Post, Required Reading

"David Gordon has written a passionate love story disguised as a mystery, a brainy tragicomedy, a bildungsroman wherein ‘the gumshoe learns the shocking secret of himself.’ His prose is by turns salacious, uproarious, and happily unhinged. A total delight.” —Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!

"I'm a Lebowski, you're a Lebowski, and fans of the famous Coen Brothers film may find many of their favorite aspects mirrored in this dark comedy…An unpredictable farce."Kirkus 

"[Raymond] Chandler's shadow hangs over [Mystery Girl], as do the literary shades of Proust, Beckett, and Pynchon, and the equally strong cinematic influences of the Hitchcock of Vertigo and the Welles of Touch of Evil. The book is filled with literary and cinematic references… Gordon's appealing wit and obvious intellect propel this gripping tale to a finely wrought and mostly unexpected conclusion."Booklist

"Both funny and frantic, complex and crazy, Gordon includes characters from every genre (underground and dark Coen Brothers films figure in the plot). [Mystery Girl] will appeal to readers of thrillers, cult film stories, and absurdist fiction." —Library Journal

"I have rarely come across a writer in such command of the English language. His sentences, characterizations and set pieces are things of beauty." —Washington Independent Review of Books

"This novel is awesome, phenomenal, incredible, mind-blowing, and overwhelming." —Rock Hard Press

"We have here a love story (two, actually), a dark comedy and some darn fine suspense, as well. David Gordon is an astute observer of the Los Angeles scene, a natural storyteller and an all-around funny guy. Mystery Girl deserves to be at the top of your reading list." Bookpage, Top Pick selection

"Reading Gordon's newest novel, Mystery Girl (New Harvest), is like talking to him in person: You don't want the anecdotes to end; you could soak up his effortlessly paired humor and wisdom forever. It's part mystery, part love story, wholly delightful." —Bustle.com

"A thriller about the dangers of marriage and a detective story about the unsolvable mysteries of love, art, and other people." CriminalElement.com

"This book surprised me in all the right ways." —Shelf Inflicted

"In this smart, witty novel by David Gordon you can expect to be taken on a ride not only in plot, but by a style that is delivered with authentic prose and perfectly placed comedic timing. The main character's sense of humor, self-deploring behavior and 'the world is a weird place' observations will make pulp fiction fans snort with glee." —Bitsy Bling Blog

"Mystery Girl is funnier, sadder, and smarter than seems mathematically possible: Dashiell Hammett divided by Don DeLillo, to the power of Dostoevsky – yet still pure David Gordon." —Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances

"Mystery Girl is hilarious, sad, and a little bit horny. David Gordon somehow synthesizes every part of the human condition – from the sublime to the humiliating – into one whip-smart voice. Like Muriel Spark and John Fante, he’s the genius who you never want to shut up." —Jay Caspian Kang, author of The Dead Do Not Improve

"Reading David Gordon is pure pleasure. He's one of the smartest, most stylish writers I've ever come across, a gifted storyteller whose work perfectly combines an incredibly sharp wit with moments of real transcendent beauty." —Karen Thompson Walker, author of The Age of Miracles

"Perfect for the summer, I picked it up Sunday morning and didn't stop until it ended, which meant I skipped swimming, strawberries, and a hike, but it was absolutely worth it. I'm having a hard time shaking the bittersweet humor and surprising tenderness." —Unabridged Chick

"…a darkly comic, stylish literary thriller…" —The Associated Press
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: New Harvest (July 16, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0544028589
  • ISBN-13: 978-0544028586
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,318,874 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gary K. McCormick VINE VOICE on June 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
For a New Yorker, author David Gordon has a pretty good handle on L.A. - the streets, the neighborhoods, and the weirdness of that sunny Southland metropolis. His novel "Mystery Girl" shows off that local knowledge while indulging in an outsider's viewpoint of the kind of general weirdness that is attributed to Tinseltown by the rest of the country.

Failed (so far...) novelist Sam Kornberg has been deserted by his wife, Lala. He is also unemployed, and in the quest for steady employment that will convince his wife to return, he stumbles into an offbeat assignment as the eyes and ears of a mostly house-bound, overweight agoraphobe who styles himself a "detective".

The plot lines twist and writhe like an exotic dancer at a club on the Sunset Strip, bringing in to play the underground film industry, pornographers, eccentric Hollywood types and ex-pat Americans living the gringo high life in Mexico. One major plot twist is telegraphed from about the middle of the book going forward, but it is satisfying, in a way, to see it come to fruition just as one suspected that it would.

"Mystery Girl" leads the reader in a number of directions, some of them expected and some of them not, and while the journey is often a bit bewildering, it is entertaining. This book will never ascend to the higher reaches of the pantheon of L.A. crime stories, but it is an enjoyable summer read.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I was enticed into ordering this book by the teaser/synopsis which promised a thrilling comedy (or was it comedic thriller?) about a murder case involving several unique and unsavory characters thrown together in bizarre scenarios. The warning that I ignored was the Karen Thompson Walker endorsement about the author being "...an incredibly sharp wit with moments of real transcendent beauty." The word 'transcendent' means "being beyond comprehension" or "extending or lying beyond the limits of ordinary experience". Oh oh!

The book I read was about several characters suffering from various degrees of mental illness bouncing off each other in some type of chaos theory. It was more about the individual characters than the weak plot line. How do these bipolar, schizophrenic, and psychopathic individuals interact with people suffering from agoraphobia, acrophobia and paranoia (to name a few) and try to function in the real world? What is man's place in the world anyway? And what is "normal"?

I don't know if the author tried too hard or if I as the reader didn't try hard enough. But then again, no one should have to work hard to enjoy a novel. Or perhaps, just perhaps, it just wasn't a very good book.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The cover of David Gordon's "Mystery Girl" makes it look like a detective romp - a fast read with no lingering aftereffects. The liner notes ("Sam soon finds himself helplessly falling for his quarry and hopelessly entangled in a murder case involving Satanists, succubi, underground filmmakers, Hollywood bigshots, Mexican shootouts, video-store geekery, and sexy doppelgangers from beyond the grave") makes it sound like a detective romp, as well. And the enticing "[Sam] takes a job as assistant detective to the enigmatic Solar Lonsky, a private eye who might be an eccentric and morbid genius or just a morbidly obese madman" makes you hopeful for a return of Nero Wolfe, some exotic recipes, and some orchid culture. And while Mr. Lonsky does some fine Nero Wolfe/Sherlock Homes observations, he is neither Nero nor Sherlock. And the book is no lighthearted quick-read romp.

It's not fast food. It is a banquet.

Sam Kornberg is a failed writer. This doesn't mean he hasn't cranked out drawers full of novels. He has. But he's a writer who chooses not to tell stories. He explains, "Traditional narrative structure seems totally irrelevant to actual experience today. I mean, what in your life has a regular beginning, middle, and end?"

And that's is sort of the kind of story that David Gordon writes. There is a mystery. A very involved mystery with a missing woman who's not really missing, but then disappears, and then jumps to her death or perhaps she doesn't, and has an intriguing past, which might be someone else's past. There are villains and movie producer creeps and film geeks and yes, sexy doppelgangers from beyond the grave. But it's not traditional narrative structure.

What it is, is an excellent read.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
First off, there appears to be a paragraph or something missing on page 218, just before the last paragraph of chapter 71. I say appears to be because chapter 79 does something similar as a kind of literary device, ending abruptly to give the effect of a power outage. However that doesn't make any sense in 71, so if you happen to be the editor or something, check it.

There are several passages where I WISH something was missing, and something else may be, but IDK/IDC because after too many pages of stream-of-consciousness 'revelations' MEGO. The plot is completely predictable after all the major 'clues' have been dropped, i.e. halfway through the narrative, and although you might say the conclusion came as a surprise, that was only because I was desperately hoping there'd be SOME kind of twist to redeem all the repetitions of a particular plot device (SPOILER ALERT: it ends in a hopelessly unconvincing shootout.)

This book didn't grab me from the get-go and took me a while to finish it. I'm sorry I did... Possibly the idea here is that the story is clever because of its literary/video allusions, so there's no need to do more than kind of gesture towards a mystery. The gesture is toward the hard-boiled dick school, but the action is really kind of soft-boiled - there IS some strong language, but we're not talking Lenny Bruce here. There's some sex and masturbation, but the asses and breasts are all round and perky and everything else is an "orifice." At one point we sidle awkwardly into a Hollywood lingerie store pretending to be a transvestite, but scoot right out again in a forced attempt at humour; later we bond over tequila with some tough Mexican locals who rescue us in a shootout that happens for reasons that don't make too much sense if you think about it.

I know the book is aiming at metahumour, but it's aim is poor and it needs a LOT more charge, imho!
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