While Alex Pavesi’s concept in The Eighth Detective isn’t entirely new, it’s still entirely welcome and ingenious. John Dickson Carr, in his novel The Three Coffins (1935), presented a locked room mystery while at the same time breaking away to analyze and discuss the mechanics of detective fiction to his readers. Carr’s hero, Dr. Gideon Fell, takes on the job of explaining the different plot variations. Pavesi has taken it a step further even than the ingenious Carr, however.
Pavesi’s central character in the novel, Grant McCallister, lives a hermit’s life on a remote island. Twenty years ago, he’d written a book called The White Murders, published in the early 1940’s. The book in our hands is a series of short murder mystery stories, interspersed with McCallister’s mathematical analysis of the murder mystery. There are a certain number of required elements and within this structure – and, as mystery readers everywhere already know – there are endless variations.